Variance Double-Down: The Small Batch Size Anomaly in Multistep Deep Reinforcement LearningDownload PDF

Published: 01 Feb 2023, Last Modified: 13 Feb 2023Submitted to ICLR 2023Readers: Everyone
Keywords: Reinforcement Learning, Deep Reinforcement Learning, Value based, Batch Size, Multi step learning
TL;DR: We perform an exhaustive investigation into the interplay of batch size and update horizon and uncover a surprising phenomenon: when increasing the update horizon, it is more beneficial to decrease the batch size
Abstract: State of the art results in reinforcement learning suggest that multi-step learning is necessary. However, the increased variance that comes with it makes it difficult to increase the update horizon beyond relatively small numbers. In this paper, we report the counterintuitive finding that decreasing the batch size substantially improves performance across a large swath of deep RL agents. It is well-known that gradient variance decreases with increasing batch sizes, so obtaining improved performance by increasing variance on two fronts is a rather surprising finding. We conduct a broad set of experiments to better understand this variance double-down phenomenon.
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