Reinforcement Learning Beyond Expectation

Bhaskar Ramasubramanian, Luyao Niu, Andrew Clark, Radha Poovendran

The inputs and preferences of human users are important considerations in situations where these users interact with autonomous cyber or cyber-physical systems. In these scenarios, one is often interested in aligning behaviors of the system with the preferences of one or more human users. Cumulative prospect theory (CPT) is a paradigm that has been empirically shown to model a tendency of humans to view gains and losses differently. In this paper, we consider a setting where an autonomous agent has to learn behaviors in an unknown environment. In traditional reinforcement learning, these behaviors are learned through repeated interactions with the environment by optimizing an expected utility. In order to endow the agent with the ability to closely mimic the behavior of human users, we optimize a CPT-based cost. We introduce the notion of the CPT-value of an action taken in a state, and establish the convergence of an iterative dynamic programming-based approach to estimate this quantity. We develop two algorithms to enable agents to learn policies to optimize the CPT-vale, and evaluate these algorithms in environments where a target state has to be reached while avoiding obstacles. We demonstrate that behaviors of the agent learned using these algorithms are better aligned with that of a human user who might be placed in the same environment, and is significantly improved over a baseline that optimizes an expected utility.

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