I have two questions on the Dueling DQN paper. First, I have an issue on understanding the identifiability that Dueling DQN paper mentions:

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Here is my question: If we have given Q-values $Q(s, a; \theta)$ for all actions, I assume we can get value for state $s$ by:

$$V(s) = \frac {1} {|Q|} \sum_{a \in \mathcal{Q}} Q(s, a; \theta)$$ and the advantage by: $$A(s,a) = Q(s, a; \theta) - V(s), ~~~ \forall ~a ~in ~\mathcal{A}(s)$$

in which $\mathcal{A}(s)$ is the action space for state $s$. If this is correct, why do we need to have two heads in the network to obtain value and advantage separately?

and then obtain Q-value using

$$Q(s, a; \theta, \alpha, \beta) = V(s; \theta, \beta) + \left( A(s, a; \theta, \alpha) - \max_{a' \in | \mathcal{A} |} A(s, a'; \theta, \alpha) \right). \tag{8}$$

or $$Q(s, a; \theta, \alpha, \beta) = V (s; \theta, \beta) + \left( A(s, a; \theta, \alpha) − \frac {1} {|A|} \sum_{a' \in \mathcal{A}} A(s, a'; \theta, \alpha) \right). \tag{9}$$

Am I missing something?

My second question is why Dueling DQN does not use the target network as it is used in the DQN paper?

  • $\begingroup$ Please, next time, ask only one question per post. $\endgroup$
    – nbro
    Jan 28, 2023 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


Regarding your first question, $$V^{\pi}(s) = \sum_{a \in A}\pi(a|s)Q^{\pi}(s,a)$$ so recovering the value function from Q really depends on what policy $\pi$ you are using. Hence, you can't really recover the value function $V(s)$ from the $Q(s,a)$ values without knowing your policy distribution for state $s$.

However, you can recover $Q^{\pi}(s,a)$ values if we know $V^{\pi}(s)$ and $A^{\pi}(s,a)$. This is because $$A^{\pi}(s,a) = V^{\pi}(s,a) - Q^{\pi}(s,a)$$

by definition of advantage. And this is why you need 2 heads to recover the $Q$ values from the Value and Advantage functions. In the original paper, the author's do not use this direct equation to recover $Q^{\pi}(s,a)$ values due to "identifability" issue and the fact that both $V^{\pi}(s)$ and $Q^{\pi}(s,a)$ are only estimates.

Regarding your second question, I believe the author's appllied the Duelling architecture on Double Deep Q Networks, which is an improvement over the single DQN used by Minh et al in learning atari. I do think that you can still use a a target network as in the single DQN case if you wanted to.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. About the target network, the double DQN paper uses a target network the same as DQN does (see the original paper of Double DQN or Appendix A of the Dueling DQN paper). But, dueling DQN uses a SARSA update to get the target value. They have mentioned that in Section 4.1. Still, not sure why they have not used target network in Dueling DQN. $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2021 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ I see what you mean. I am not very sure why they did not use a target network. It could be because that they are using the SARSA algorithm rather than Q-learning one. I think you can search for Deep SARSA methods to see whether the choice of network is similar. $\endgroup$
    – calveeen
    Mar 23, 2021 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Media, Thanks for the reply. I noticed that they have used the DDQN framework for the Atari experiments, but was not sure which network is their proposal. $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2021 at 15:15

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