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Policy Evaluation for Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback: A Sample Complexity Analysis

Zihao Li · Xiang Ji · Minshuo Chen · Mengdi Wang

MR1 & MR2 - Number 15
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Sat 4 May 6 a.m. PDT — 8:30 a.m. PDT


A recently popular approach to solving reinforcement learning is with data from human preferences. In fact, human preference data are now used with classic reinforcement learning algorithms such as actor-critic methods, which involve evaluating an intermediate policy over a reward learned from human preference data with distribution shift, known as off-policy evaluation (OPE). Such algorithm includes (i) learning reward function from human preference dataset, and (ii) learning expected cumulative reward of a target policy. Despite the huge empirical success, existing OPE methods with preference data often lack theoretical understandings and rely heavily on heuristics. In this paper, we study the sample efficiency of OPE with human preference and establish a statistical guarantee for it. Specifically, we approach OPE with learning the value function by fitted-Q-evaluation with a deep neural network. By appropriately selecting the size of a ReLU network, we show that one can leverage any low-dimensional manifold structure in the Markov decision process and obtain a sample-efficient estimator without suffering from the curse of high data ambient dimensionality. Under the assumption of high reward smoothness, our results almost align with the classical OPE results with observable reward data. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first result that establishes a provably efficient guarantee for off-policy evaluation with RLHF.

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