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On Pathologies in KL-Regularized Reinforcement Learning from Expert Demonstrations

KL-regularized reinforcement learning from expert demonstrations has proved successful in improving the sample efficiency of deep reinforcement learning algorithms, allowing them to be applied to challenging physical real-world tasks. However, we show that KL-regularized reinforcement learning with behavioral policies derived from expert demonstrations suffers from hitherto unrecognized pathological behavior that can lead to slow, unstable, and suboptimal online training. We show empirically that the pathology occurs for commonly chosen behavioral policy classes and demonstrate its impact on sample efficiency and online policy performance. Finally, we show that the pathology can be remedied by specifying non-parametric behavioral policies and that doing so allows KL-regularized RL to significantly outperform state-of-the-art approaches on a variety of challenging locomotion and dexterous hand manipulation tasks.

Tim G. J. Rudner, Cong Lu, Michael A. Osborne, Yarin Gal, Yee Whye Teh
NeurIPS, 2021
ICLR Workshop on Robust and Reliable Machine Learning in the Real World, 2021
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