Teaching People by Justifying Tree Search Decisions: An Empirical Study in Curling

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Cleyton R. Silva
Michael Bowling
Levi H.S. Lelis


In this research note we show that a simple justification system can be used to teach humans non-trivial strategies of the Olympic sport of curling. This is achieved by justifying the decisions of Kernel Regression UCT (KR-UCT), a tree search algorithm that derives curling strategies by playing the game with itself. Given an action returned by KR-UCT and the expected outcome of that action, we use a decision tree to produce a counterfactual justification of KR-UCT’s decision. The system samples other possible outcomes and selects for presentation the outcomes that are most similar to the expected outcome in terms of visual features and most different in terms of expected end-game value. A user study with 122 people shows that the participants who had access to the justifications produced by our system achieved much higher scores in a curling test than those who only observed the decision made by KR-UCT and those with access to the justifications of a baseline system. This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first work showing that a justification system is able to teach humans non-trivial strategies learned by an algorithm operating in self play.

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