Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Machine versus Human Attention in Deep Reinforcement Learning Tasks

Sihang Guo · Ruohan Zhang · Bo Liu · Yifeng Zhu · Dana Ballard · Mary Hayhoe · Peter Stone

Keywords: [ Reinforcement Learning and Planning ] [ Deep Learning ] [ Interpretability ]


Deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms are powerful tools for solving visuomotor decision tasks. However, the trained models are often difficult to interpret, because they are represented as end-to-end deep neural networks. In this paper, we shed light on the inner workings of such trained models by analyzing the pixels that they attend to during task execution, and comparing them with the pixels attended to by humans executing the same tasks. To this end, we investigate the following two questions that, to the best of our knowledge, have not been previously studied. 1) How similar are the visual representations learned by RL agents and humans when performing the same task? and, 2) How do similarities and differences in these learned representations explain RL agents' performance on these tasks? Specifically, we compare the saliency maps of RL agents against visual attention models of human experts when learning to play Atari games. Further, we analyze how hyperparameters of the deep RL algorithm affect the learned representations and saliency maps of the trained agents. The insights provided have the potential to inform novel algorithms for closing the performance gap between human experts and RL agents.

Chat is not available.