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Intrinsic Exploration as Empowerment in a Richly Structured Online Game

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Brändle,  F
Research Group Computational Principles of Intelligence, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Schulz,  E
Research Group Computational Principles of Intelligence, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Brändle, F., Stocks, L., Tenenbaum, J., Gershman, S., & Schulz, E. (submitted). Intrinsic Exploration as Empowerment in a Richly Structured Online Game.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-CEA3-7
Abstract
Studies of human exploration frequently cast people as serendipitously stumbling upon good options. Yet these studies may not capture the richness of exploration strategies that people exhibit in more complex environments. We study human behavior in a large data set of 29,493 players of the richly-structured online game "Little Alchemy 2''. In this game, players start with four elements, which they can combine to create up to 720 complex objects. We find that players are driven to create objects that empower them to create even more objects. We find that this drive for empowerment is eliminated when people play a version of the game that lacks recognizable semantics, indicating that they use their knowledge about the world to guide their exploration. Our results suggest that the drive for empowerment may be a potent source of intrinsic motivation in richly structured domains, particularly those that lack explicit reward signals.