Kshitij Mishra


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PAL to Lend a Helping Hand: Towards Building an Emotion Adaptive Polite and Empathetic Counseling Conversational Agent
Kshitij Mishra | Priyanshu Priya | Asif Ekbal
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has significantly emphasized the need for mental health care. The social stigma associated with mental illness prevents individuals from addressing their issues and getting assistance. In such a scenario, the relevance of online counseling has increased dramatically. The feelings and attitudes that a client and a counselor express towards each other result in a higher or lower counseling experience. A counselor should be friendly and gain clients’ trust to make them share their problems comfortably. Thus, it is essential for the counselor to adequately comprehend the client’s emotions and ensure client’s welfare, i.e. s/he should adapt and deal with the clients politely and empathetically to provide a pleasant, cordial and personalized experience. Motivated by this, in this work, we attempt to build a novel Polite and empAthetic counseLing conversational agent PAL to lay down the counseling support to substance addict and crime victims. To have client’s emotion-based polite and empathetic responses, two counseling datasets laying down the counseling support to substance addicts and crime victims are annotated. These annotated datasets are used to build PAL in a reinforcement learning framework. A novel reward function is formulated to ensure correct politeness and empathy preferences as per client’s emotions with naturalness and non-repetitiveness in responses. Thorough automatic and human evaluation showcase the usefulness and strength of the designed novel reward function. Our proposed system is scalable and can be easily modified with different modules of preference models as per need.

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e-THERAPIST: I suggest you to cultivate a mindset of positivity and nurture uplifting thoughts
Kshitij Mishra | Priyanshu Priya | Manisha Burja | Asif Ekbal
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The shortage of therapists for mental health patients emphasizes the importance of globally accessible dialogue systems alleviating their issues. To have effective interpersonal psychotherapy, these systems must exhibit politeness and empathy when needed. However, these factors may vary as per the user’s gender, age, persona, and sentiment. Hence, in order to establish trust and provide a personalized cordial experience, it is essential that generated responses should be tailored to individual profiles and attributes. Focusing on this objective, we propose e-THERAPIST, a novel polite interpersonal psychotherapy dialogue system to address issues like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. We begin by curating a unique conversational dataset for psychotherapy, called PsyCon. It is annotated at two levels: (i) dialogue-level - including user’s profile information (gender, age, persona) and therapist’s psychotherapeutic approach; and (ii) utterance-level - encompassing user’s sentiment and therapist’s politeness, and interpersonal behaviour. Then, we devise a novel reward model to adapt correct polite interpersonal behaviour and use it to train e-THERAPIST on PsyCon employing NLPO loss. Our extensive empirical analysis validates the effectiveness of each component of the proposed e-THERAPIST demonstrating its potential impact in psychotherapy settings.

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RPTCS: A Reinforced Persona-aware Topic-guiding Conversational System
Zishan Ahmad | Kshitij Mishra | Asif Ekbal | Pushpak Bhattacharyya
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Although there has been a plethora of work on open-domain conversational systems, most of the systems lack the mechanism of controlling the concept transitions in a dialogue. For activities like switching from casual chit-chat to task-oriented conversation, an agent with the ability to manage the flow of concepts in a conversation might be helpful. The user would find the dialogue more engaging and be more receptive to such transitions if these concept transitions were made while taking into account the user’s persona. Focusing on persona-aware concept transitions, we propose a Reinforced Persona-aware Topic-guiding Conversational System (RPTCS). Due to the lack of a persona-aware topic transition dataset, we propose a novel conversation dataset creation mechanism in which the conversational agent leads the discourse to drift to a set of target concepts depending on the persona of the speaker and the context of the conversation. To avoid scarcely available expensive human resource, the entire data-creation process is mostly automatic with human-in-loop only for quality checks. This created conversational dataset named PTCD is used to develop the RPTCS in two steps. First, a maximum likelihood estimation loss-based conversational model is trained on PTCD. Then this trained model is fine-tuned in a Reinforcement Learning (RL) framework by employing novel reward functions to assure persona, topic, and context consistency with non-repetitiveness in generated responses. Our experimental results demonstrate the strength of the proposed system with respect to strong baselines.


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PEPDS: A Polite and Empathetic Persuasive Dialogue System for Charity Donation
Kshitij Mishra | Azlaan Mustafa Samad | Palak Totala | Asif Ekbal
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Persuasive conversations for a social cause often require influencing other person’s attitude or intention that may fail even with compelling arguments. The use of emotions and different types of polite tones as needed with facts may enhance the persuasiveness of a message. To incorporate these two aspects, we propose a polite, empathetic persuasive dialogue system (PEPDS). First, in a Reinforcement Learning setting, a Maximum Likelihood Estimation loss based model is fine-tuned by designing an efficient reward function consisting of five different sub rewards viz. Persuasion, Emotion, Politeness-Strategy Consistency, Dialogue-Coherence and Non-repetitiveness. Then, to generate empathetic utterances for non-empathetic ones, an Empathetic transfer model is built upon the RL fine-tuned model. Due to the unavailability of an appropriate dataset, by utilizing the PERSUASIONFORGOOD dataset, we create two datasets, viz. EPP4G and ETP4G. EPP4G is used to train three transformer-based classification models as per persuasiveness, emotion and politeness strategy to achieve respective reward feedbacks. The ETP4G dataset is used to train an empathetic transfer model. Our experimental results demonstrate that PEPDS increases the rate of persuasive responses with emotion and politeness acknowledgement compared to the current state-of-the-art dialogue models, while also enhancing the dialogue’s engagement and maintaining the linguistic quality.

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Empathetic Persuasion: Reinforcing Empathy and Persuasiveness in Dialogue Systems
Azlaan Mustafa Samad | Kshitij Mishra | Mauajama Firdaus | Asif Ekbal
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

Persuasion is an intricate process involving empathetic connection between two individuals. Plain persuasive responses may make a conversation non-engaging. Even the most well-intended and reasoned persuasive conversations can fall through in the absence of empathetic connection between the speaker and listener. In this paper, we propose a novel task of incorporating empathy when generating persuasive responses. We develop an empathetic persuasive dialogue system by fine-tuning a maximum likelihood Estimation (MLE)-based language model in a reinforcement learning (RL) framework. To design feedbacks for our RL-agent, we define an effective and efficient reward function considering consistency, repetitiveness, emotion and persuasion rewards to ensure consistency, non-repetitiveness, empathy and persuasiveness in the generated responses. Due to lack of emotion annotated persuasive data, we first annotate the existing Persuaion For Good dataset with emotions, then build transformer based classifiers to provide emotion based feedbacks to our RL agent. Experimental results confirm that our proposed model increases the rate of generating persuasive responses as compared to the available state-of-the-art dialogue models while making the dialogues empathetically more engaging and retaining the language quality in responses.


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Exploring the effects of Sentence Simplification on Hindi to English Machine Translation System
Kshitij Mishra | Ankush Soni | Rahul Sharma | Dipti Sharma
Proceedings of the Workshop on Automatic Text Simplification - Methods and Applications in the Multilingual Society (ATS-MA 2014)