Reinforcement Learning with Intrinsic Motivation

Reinforcement Learning with Intrinsic Motivation

Reinforcement Learning with Intrinsic Motivation (RLIM) is a subfield of machine learning that combines the principles of reinforcement learning (RL) and intrinsic motivation. This approach aims to improve the learning efficiency and adaptability of artificial intelligence (AI) systems by incorporating mechanisms inspired by the intrinsic motivation observed in humans and animals.


Reinforcement Learning with Intrinsic Motivation is a learning paradigm where an agent learns to interact with its environment by maximizing a reward signal. The unique aspect of RLIM is that the reward signal is not solely based on extrinsic rewards provided by the environment, but also includes intrinsic rewards generated by the agent itself. These intrinsic rewards are typically based on the novelty, complexity, or unpredictability of the agent’s experiences, encouraging exploration and curiosity.

How it Works

In RLIM, an agent interacts with an environment in discrete time steps. At each time step, the agent selects an action from a set of possible actions, receives an extrinsic reward from the environment, and transitions to a new state. In addition to the extrinsic reward, the agent also generates an intrinsic reward based on its own internal criteria.

The agent’s goal is to learn a policy, which is a mapping from states to actions, that maximizes the cumulative reward over time. This cumulative reward now includes both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, balancing the need to achieve specific goals (driven by extrinsic rewards) with the desire to explore and learn (driven by intrinsic rewards).


RLIM is a significant advancement in the field of reinforcement learning. Traditional RL methods can suffer from slow learning rates and poor performance in environments with sparse or delayed rewards. By incorporating intrinsic motivation, RLIM can encourage more efficient exploration, accelerate learning, and improve performance in complex environments.

Intrinsic motivation can also make RL agents more robust and adaptable. By learning to seek out novel experiences and challenges, RLIM agents can continue to learn and adapt even when the extrinsic rewards are sparse or non-existent.


RLIM has a wide range of applications in AI and robotics. It can be used to train autonomous vehicles to navigate complex environments, to develop game-playing AI that can discover and exploit novel strategies, and to create adaptive AI systems that can learn and evolve in response to changing conditions.

In the field of robotics, RLIM can be used to train robots to perform complex tasks without requiring exhaustive manual programming. By incorporating intrinsic motivation, robots can learn to explore their environment, discover new strategies, and adapt to changes in their tasks or environment.

Further Reading