Towards Understanding Persuasion in Computational Argumentation

by   Esin Durmus, et al.

Opinion formation and persuasion in argumentation are affected by three major factors: the argument itself, the source of the argument, and the properties of the audience. Understanding the role of each and the interplay between them is crucial for obtaining insights regarding argument interpretation and generation. It is particularly important for building effective argument generation systems that can take both the discourse and the audience characteristics into account. Having such personalized argument generation systems would be helpful to expose individuals to different viewpoints and help them make a more fair and informed decision on an issue. Even though studies in Social Sciences and Psychology have shown that source and audience effects are essential components of the persuasion process, most research in computational persuasion has focused solely on understanding the characteristics of persuasive language. In this thesis, we make several contributions to understand the relative effect of the source, audience, and language in computational persuasion. We first introduce a large-scale dataset with extensive user information to study these factors' effects simultaneously. Then, we propose models to understand the role of the audience's prior beliefs on their perception of arguments. We also investigate the role of social interactions and engagement in understanding users' success in online debating over time. We find that the users' prior beliefs and social interactions play an essential role in predicting their success in persuasion. Finally, we explore the importance of incorporating contextual information to predict argument impact and show improvements compared to encoding only the text of the arguments.


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