The Utility of Explainable AI in Ad Hoc Human-Machine Teaming

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Rohan Paleja, Muyleng Ghuy, Nadun Ranawaka Arachchige, Reed Jensen, Matthew Gombolay


Recent advances in machine learning have led to growing interest in Explainable AI (xAI) to enable humans to gain insight into the decision-making of machine learning models. Despite this recent interest, the utility of xAI techniques has not yet been characterized in human-machine teaming. Importantly, xAI offers the promise of enhancing team situational awareness (SA) and shared mental model development, which are the key characteristics of effective human-machine teams. Rapidly developing such mental models is especially critical in ad hoc human-machine teaming, where agents do not have a priori knowledge of others' decision-making strategies. In this paper, we present two novel human-subject experiments quantifying the benefits of deploying xAI techniques within a human-machine teaming scenario. First, we show that xAI techniques can support SA ($p<0.05)$. Second, we examine how different SA levels induced via a collaborative AI policy abstraction affect ad hoc human-machine teaming performance. Importantly, we find that the benefits of xAI are not universal, as there is a strong dependence on the composition of the human-machine team. Novices benefit from xAI providing increased SA ($p<0.05$) but are susceptible to cognitive overhead ($p<0.05$). On the other hand, expert performance degrades with the addition of xAI-based support ($p<0.05$), indicating that the cost of paying attention to the xAI outweighs the benefits obtained from being provided additional information to enhance SA. Our results demonstrate that researchers must deliberately design and deploy the right xAI techniques in the right scenario by carefully considering human-machine team composition and how the xAI method augments SA.