Theory of Minds: Understanding Behavior in Groups through Inverse Planning


  • Michael Shum Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Max Kleiman-Weiner Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Michael L. Littman Brown University
  • Joshua B. Tenenbaum Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Human social behavior is structured by relationships. We form teams, groups, tribes, and alliances at all scales of human life. These structures guide multi-agent cooperation and competition, but when we observe others these underlying relationships are typically unobservable and hence must be inferred. Humans make these inferences intuitively and flexibly, often making rapid generalizations about the latent relationships that underlie behavior from just sparse and noisy observations. Rapid and accurate inferences are important for determining who to cooperate with, who to compete with, and how to cooperate in order to compete. Towards the goal of building machine-learning algorithms with human-like social intelligence, we develop a generative model of multiagent action understanding based on a novel representation for these latent relationships called Composable Team Hierarchies (CTH). This representation is grounded in the formalism of stochastic games and multi-agent reinforcement learning. We use CTH as a target for Bayesian inference yielding a new algorithm for understanding behavior in groups that can both infer hidden relationships as well as predict future actions for multiple agents interacting together. Our algorithm rapidly recovers an underlying causal model of how agents relate in spatial stochastic games from just a few observations. The patterns of inference made by this algorithm closely correspond with human judgments and the algorithm makes the same rapid generalizations that people do.




How to Cite

Shum, M., Kleiman-Weiner, M., Littman, M. L., & Tenenbaum, J. B. (2019). Theory of Minds: Understanding Behavior in Groups through Inverse Planning. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 33(01), 6163-6170.



AAAI Technical Track: Multiagent Systems