Bayesian Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25 (NIPS 2012)

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Feng Cao, Soumya Ray


We describe an approach to incorporating Bayesian priors in the maxq framework for hierarchical reinforcement learning (HRL). We define priors on the primitive environment model and on task pseudo-rewards. Since models for composite tasks can be complex, we use a mixed model-based/model-free learning approach to find an optimal hierarchical policy. We show empirically that (i) our approach results in improved convergence over non-Bayesian baselines, given sensible priors, (ii) task hierarchies and Bayesian priors can be complementary sources of information, and using both sources is better than either alone, (iii) taking advantage of the structural decomposition induced by the task hierarchy significantly reduces the computational cost of Bayesian reinforcement learning and (iv) in this framework, task pseudo-rewards can be learned instead of being manually specified, leading to automatic learning of hierarchically optimal rather than recursively optimal policies.