• Multimodal Strategies for Ambiguity Resolution in Conversational SystemsM. Alikhani, E. Selfridge, M. Stone, M. Johsnton, submitted to AAAI 2019. 

  • The Influence of Alternative Terms on Speakers’ Choice of Vague Description, M. Alikhani, K. Persaud, K. Pei, B. McMahan, M. Stone, submitted to Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 

    Abstract: Speakers use vague words flexibly, to refer to different ranges of continuous values in different contexts. One explanation is that speakers reason creatively to give as much information as possible in context using the available terms. In this paper, we investigate this hypothesis for vague probability and color terms. Our empirical results show interestingly opposing behaviors: speakers instructed to use terms from a specified list adjust their use of probability terms, but not their use of color terms, based on the alternatives provided to them.

  • Arrows are the Verbs of DiagramsM. Alikhani, M. Stone, In Proceedings of COLING2018, the 27th International Conference on Computational Linguistics. 

    Abstract: Arrows are a key ingredient of schematic pictorial communication.  This paper investigates the interpretation of arrows through linguistic, crowdsourcing and machine-learning methodology.  Our work establishes a novel analogy between arrows and verbs: we advocate representing arrows in terms of qualitatively different structural and semantic frames, and resolving frames to specific interpretations using shallow world knowledge.

  • Exploring Coherence in Visual Explanations, M. Alikhani, M. Stone, In Proceedings of First International Workshop on Multimedia Pragmatics.

    Abstract: A wide range of communicative artifacts—perhaps the majority—involve the coordinated presentation of visual and linguistic information. We envisage computer systems that support access to information by using rich representations of the interpretation of such multimodal presentations. This paper advocates organizing such representations in terms of coherence relations, a fundamental construct from the theory of natural language discourse that is often invoked to explain the integrated interpretation of the diverse communicative actions in face-to-face conversation. Coherence relations come in constrained classes, such as the Explanation, Narration and Parallel relations, each of which establishes specific kinds of structural, logical, and intentional relationships among communicative actions. Representing these relationships can, therefore, provide a scaffold for organizing, disambiguating and integrating the interpretation of communication across modalities. This paper uses a case study of instructions presented using text and pictures to motivate and describe an analysis of multimodal discourse interpretation in terms of coherence relations and to sketch a roadmap for operationalizing the approach in computer systems.

  • When is Likely Unlikely: Investigating Variability of VaguenessK. Persaud, B. McMahan, M. Alikhani, K. Pei, P. Hemmer, M. Stone, In Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society Conference. 

    Abstract: An important part of explaining how people communicate is to understand how people relate language to entities in the world. In describing measurements, people prefer to use qualitative words like ‘tall’ without precise applicability conditions, also known as vague words. The use of vague language varies widely across contexts, individuals, and tasks (single reference vs. comparisons between targets), but despite this variability, is used quite successfully. A potential strategy for using vague language is to leverage the set of alternative descriptors to settle on the best option. To determine whether people use this strategy, we conducted an experiment where participants picked vague words from sets of alternatives to describe either probability or color values. We varied the set of alternatives from which participants could choose. Empirical evidence supports the hypothesis that people use the set of available options to pick vague descriptors. The theoretical implications of this work are discussed.

  • Pricing complexity options, M. Alikhani, B. Kjos-Hanssen, Algorithmic Finance 2015. The Ideas are implemented in Complexity Option Game.

    Abstract: We consider options that pay the complexity deficiency of a sequence of up and downticks of a stock upon exercise. We study the price of European and American versions of this option numerically for automatic complexity, and theoretically for Kolmogorov complexity. We also consider run complexity, which is a restricted form of automatic complexity.


  • Statistics and Probability Common CoreM. Alikhani, Cliffs Notes, 2016.

    Relevant to high school students needing to review the Statistics and Probability component of the Common Core math standards, this quick review provides targeted chapter-level reviews of topics aligned to the Statistics and Probability Common Core math standards, with practice problems throughout each review chapter and chapter-end quizzes. 

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