We analyze a model of learning and belief formation in networks in which agents follow Bayes rule yet they do not recall their history of past observations and cannot reason about how other agents' beliefs are formed. They do so by making rational inferences about their observations which include a sequence of independent and identically distributed private signals as well as the beliefs of their neighboring agents at each time. Fully rational agents would successively apply Bayes rule to the entire history of observations. This leads to forebodingly complex inferences due to lack of knowledge about the global network structure that causes those observations. To address these complexities, we consider a Learning without Recall model, which in addition to providing a tractable framework for analyzing the behavior of rational agents in social networks, can also provide a behavioral foundation for the variety of non-Bayesian update rules in the literature. We present the implications of various choices for time-varying priors of such agents and how this choice affects learning and its rate.
Non-Bayesian social learning theory provides a framework that models distributed inference for a group of agents interacting over a social network. In this framework, each agent iteratively forms and communicates beliefs about an unknown state of the world with their neighbors using a learning rule. Existing approaches assume agents have access to precise statistical models (in the form of likelihoods) for the state of the world. However in many situations, such models must be learned from finite data. We propose a social learning rule that takes into account uncertainty in the statistical models using second-order probabilities. Therefore, beliefs derived from uncertain models are sensitive to the amount of past evidence collected for each hypothesis. We characterize how well the hypotheses can be tested on a social network, as consistent or not with the state of the world. We explicitly show the dependency of the generated beliefs with respect to the amount of prior evidence. Moreover, as the amount of prior evidence goes to infinity, learning occurs and is consistent with traditional social learning theory.
This work investigates the case of a network of agents that attempt to learn some unknown state of the world amongst the finitely many possibilities. At each time step, agents all receive random, independently distributed private signals whose distributions are dependent on the unknown state of the world. However, it may be the case that some or any of the agents cannot distinguish between two or more of the possible states based only on their private observations, as when several states result in the same distribution of the private signals. In our model, the agents form some initial belief (probability distribution) about the unknown state and then refine their beliefs in accordance with their private observations, as well as the beliefs of their neighbors. An agent learns the unknown state when her belief converges to a point mass that is concentrated at the true state. A rational agent would use the Bayes' rule to incorporate her neighbors' beliefs and own private signals over time. While such repeated applications of the Bayes' rule in networks can become computationally intractable, in this paper, we show that in the canonical cases of directed star, circle or path networks and their combinations, one can derive a class of memoryless update rules that replicate that of a single Bayesian agent but replace the self beliefs with the beliefs of the neighbors. This way, one can realize an exponentially fast rate of learning similar to the case of Bayesian (fully rational) agents. The proposed rules are a special case of the Learning without Recall.
We consider several estimation and learning problems that networked agents face when making decisions given their uncertainty about an unknown variable. Our methods are designed to efficiently deal with heterogeneity in both size and quality of the observed data, as well as heterogeneity over time (intermittence). The goal of the studied aggregation schemes is to efficiently combine the observed data that is spread over time and across several network nodes, accounting for all the network heterogeneities. Moreover, we require no form of coordination beyond the local neighborhood of every network agent or sensor node. The three problems that we consider are (i) maximum likelihood estimation of the unknown given initial data sets, (ii) learning the true model parameter from streams of data that the agents receive intermittently over time, and (iii) minimum variance estimation of a complete sufficient statistic from several data points that the networked agents collect over time. In each case we rely on an aggregation scheme to combine the observations of all agents; moreover, when the agents receive streams of data over time, we modify the update rules to accommodate the most recent observations. In every case, we demonstrate the efficiency of our algorithms by proving convergence to the globally efficient estimators given the observations of all agents. We supplement these results by investigating the rate of convergence and providing finite-time performance guarantees.
This paper addresses the problem of online learning in a dynamic setting. We consider a social network in which each individual observes a private signal about the underlying state of the world and communicates with her neighbors at each time period. Unlike many existing approaches, the underlying state is dynamic, and evolves according to a geometric random walk. We view the scenario as an optimization problem where agents aim to learn the true state while suffering the smallest possible loss. Based on the decomposition of the global loss function, we introduce two update mechanisms, each of which generates an estimate of the true state. We establish a tight bound on the rate of change of the underlying state, under which individuals can track the parameter with a bounded variance. Then, we characterize explicit expressions for the steady state mean-square deviation(MSD) of the estimates from the truth, per individual. We observe that only one of the estimators recovers the optimal MSD, which underscores the impact of the objective function decomposition on the learning quality. Finally, we provide an upper bound on the regret of the proposed methods, measured as an average of errors in estimating the parameter in a finite time.