State2Explanation: Concept-Based Explanations to Benefit Agent Learning and User Understanding

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Devleena Das, Sonia Chernova, Been Kim


As more non-AI experts use complex AI systems for daily tasks, there has been an increasing effort to develop methods that produce explanations of AI decision making that are understandable by non-AI experts. Towards this effort, leveraging higher-level concepts and producing concept-based explanations have become a popular method. Most concept-based explanations have been developed for classification techniques, and we posit that the few existing methods for sequential decision making are limited in scope. In this work, we first contribute a desiderata for defining ``concepts'' in sequential decision making settings. Additionally, inspired by the Protege Effect which states explaining knowledge often reinforces one's self-learning, we explore how concept-based explanations of an RL agent's decision making can in turn improve the agent's learning rate, as well as improve end-user understanding of the agent's decision making. To this end, we contribute a unified framework, State2Explanation (S2E), that involves learning a joint embedding model between state-action pairs and concept-based explanations, and leveraging such learned model to both (1) inform reward shaping during an agent's training, and (2) provide explanations to end-users at deployment for improved task performance. Our experimental validations, in Connect 4 and Lunar Lander, demonstrate the success of S2E in providing a dual-benefit, successfully informing reward shaping and improving agent learning rate, as well as significantly improving end user task performance at deployment time.