Persuading Farsighted Receivers in MDPs: the Power of Honesty

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Martino Bernasconi, Matteo Castiglioni, Alberto Marchesi, Mirco Mutti


Bayesian persuasion studies the problem faced by an informed sender who strategically discloses information to influence the behavior of an uninformed receiver. Recently, a growing attention has been devoted to settings where the sender and the receiver interact sequentially, in which the receiver's decision-making problem is usually modeled as a Markov decision process (MDP). However, the literature focuses on computing optimal information-revelation policies (a.k.a. signaling schemes) under the restrictive assumption that the receiver acts myopically, selecting actions to maximize the one-step utility and disregarding future rewards. This is justified by the fact that, when the receiver is farsighted and thus considers future rewards, finding an optimal Markovian signaling scheme is NP-hard. In this paper, we show that Markovian signaling schemes do not constitute the "right" class of policies. Indeed, differently from most of the MDPs settings, we show that Markovian signaling schemes are not optimal, and general history-dependent signaling schemes should be considered. Moreover, we also show that history-dependent signaling schemes circumvent the negative complexity results affecting Markovian signaling schemes. Formally, we design an algorithm that computes an optimal and $\epsilon$-persuasive history-dependent signaling scheme in time polynomial in ${1}/{\epsilon}$ and in the instance size. The crucial challenge is that general history-dependent signaling schemes cannot be represented in polynomial space. Nevertheless, we introduce a convenient subclass of history-dependent signaling schemes, called promise-form, which are as powerful as general history-dependent ones and efficiently representable. Intuitively, promise-form signaling schemes compactly encode histories in the form of honest promises on future receiver's rewards.