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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Transfer of learned opponent models in repeated games


Human learning transfer takes advantage of important cognitive building blocks such as an abstract representation of concepts underlying tasks and causal models of the environment. One way to build abstract representations of the environment when the task involves interactions with others is to build a model of the opponent that may inform what actions they are likely to take next. In this study, we explore opponent modelling and its role in learning transfer by letting human participants play different games against the same computer agent, who possesses human-like theory of mind abilities with a limited degree of iterated reasoning. We find that participants deviate from Nash equilibrium play and learn to adapt to the opponent's strategy to exploit it. Moreover, we show that participants transfer their learning to new games and that this transfer is moderated by the level of sophistication of the opponent. Computational modelling shows that it is likely that players start each game using a model-based learning strategy that facilitates generalisation and opponent model transfer, but then switch to behaviour that is consistent with a model-free learning strategy in the later stages of the interaction.

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