Distributed Hypothesis Testing with Social Learning and Symmetric Fusion

Joong Bum Rhim, Vivek K Goyal

We study the utility of social learning in a distributed detection model with agents sharing the same goal: a collective decision that optimizes an agreed upon criterion. We show that social learning is helpful in some cases but is provably futile (and thus essentially a distraction) in other cases. Specifically, we consider Bayesian binary hypothesis testing performed by a distributed detection and fusion system, where all decision-making agents have binary votes that carry equal weight. Decision-making agents in the team sequentially make local decisions based on their own private signals and all precedent local decisions. It is shown that the optimal decision rule is not affected by precedent local decisions when all agents observe conditionally independent and identically distributed private signals. Perfect Bayesian reasoning will cancel out all effects of social learning. When the agents observe private signals with different signal-to-noise ratios, social learning is again futile if the team decision is only approved by unanimity. Otherwise, social learning can strictly improve the team performance. Furthermore, the order in which agents make their decisions affects the team decision.

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