S. E. Lander and V. R. Lesser
We present negotiated search, a paradigm for cooperative search and conflict resolution among loosely-coupled expert agents. The paradigm is realized in TEAM, a framework that provides a flexible environment for agent integration. TEAM enables agents with heterogeneous characteristics and capabilities to work together cooperatively. Experimental results from a design application program implemented in TEAM are presented. These results indicate that system performance is correlated with the organization of the agent set based on the ability of agents to communicate, the interaction capabilities instantiated at each agent, and by the texture of agents’ local solution spaces. The experiments show that heterogeneous agents can work together without tightly coordinated organization. However, they also demonstrate that some agent organizations have more potential for effective cooperation than others. We analyze agent characteristics that affect this potential and discuss the use of negotiated-search strategies that take advantage of the particular strengths of the agents in an agent set. Both agent characteristics and group dynamics have far-reaching implications for the development of multi-agent systems and for the design of agents that are intended to work within agent sets.