Temporally-Extended ε-Greedy Exploration

Recent work on exploration in reinforcement learning (RL) has led to a series of increasingly complex solutions to the problem. This increase in complexity often comes at the expense of generality. Recent empirical studies suggest that, when applied to a broader set of domains, some sophisticated exploration methods are outperformed by simpler counterparts, such as {\epsilon}-greedy. In this paper we propose an exploration algorithm that retains the simplicity of {\epsilon}-greedy while reducing dithering. We build on a simple hypothesis: the main limitation of {\epsilon}-greedy exploration is its lack of temporal persistence, which limits its ability to escape local optima. We propose a temporally extended form of {\epsilon}-greedy that simply repeats the sampled action for a random duration. It turns out that, for many duration distributions, this suffices to improve exploration on a large set of domains. Interestingly, a class of distributions inspired by ecological models of animal foraging behaviour yields particularly strong performance.

Authors' notes