Intrinsically Motivated Social Play in Virtual Infants

Published: 20 Oct 2023, Last Modified: 30 Nov 2023IMOL@NeurIPS2023EveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Keywords: intrinsic motivation, curiosity, reinforcement learning, development, contingent interaction, play, social behavior
TL;DR: In a developmentally-inspired virtual environment, intrinsic motivation can lead to social behavior and the creation of a robust predictive world model
Abstract: Infants explore their complex physical and social environment in an organized way. To gain insight into what intrinsic motivations may help structure this exploration, we create a virtual infant agent and place it in a developmentally-inspired 3D environment with no external rewards. The environment has a virtual caregiver agent with the capability to interact contingently with the infant agent in ways that resemble play. We test intrinsic reward functions that are similar to motivations that have been proposed to drive exploration in humans: surprise, uncertainty, novelty, and learning progress. The reward functions that are proxies for novelty and uncertainty are the most successful in generating diverse experiences and activating the environment contingencies. We also find that learning a world model in the presence of an attentive caregiver helps the infant agent learn how to predict scenarios with challenging social and physical dynamics. Our findings provide insight into how curiosity-like intrinsic rewards and contingent social interaction lead to social behavior and the creation of a robust predictive world model.
Submission Number: 24