Can social learning increase learning speed, performance or both?

Conference Date
Lyon, France
Date Published
September 2017
Conference Date: 2017, Vol. 14, Pages 200-207.
(doi: 10.7551/ecal_a_036)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license
Article PDF (871.2 KB)

Social learning enables multiple robots to share learned experiences while completing a task. The literature offers contradicting examples of its benefits; robots trained with social learning reach a higher performance, an increased learning speed, or both, compared to their individual learning counterparts. No general explanation has been advanced for the difference in observations, which make the results highly dependent on the particular system and parameter setting. In this research, we show that even within one system, the observed advantages of social learning can vary between parameter settings. Using Evolutionary Robotics, we train robots individually in a foraging task. We compare the performance of 50 parameter instances of the evolutionary algorithm obtained by a definitive screening design. We apply social learning in groups of two and four robots to the parameter settings that lead to the best and median performance. Our results show that the observed advantages of social learning differ highly between parameter settings but in general, median quality parameter settings experience more benefit from social learning. These results serve as a reminder that tuning of the parameters should not be left as an afterthought because they can drastically impact the conclusions on the advantages of social learning. Additionally, these results suggest that social learning reduces the sensitivity of the learning process to the choice of parameters.