Counterfactual Risk Minimization: Learning from Logged Bandit Feedback


Adith Swaminathan, Thorsten Joachims ;
Proceedings of the 32nd International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 37:814-823, 2015.


We develop a learning principle and an efficient algorithm for batch learning from logged bandit feedback. This learning setting is ubiquitous in online systems (e.g., ad placement, web search, recommendation), where an algorithm makes a prediction (e.g., ad ranking) for a given input (e.g., query) and observes bandit feedback (e.g., user clicks on presented ads). We first address the counterfactual nature of the learning problem through propensity scoring. Next, we prove generalization error bounds that account for the variance of the propensity-weighted empirical risk estimator. These constructive bounds give rise to the Counterfactual Risk Minimization (CRM) principle. We show how CRM can be used to derive a new learning method – called Policy Optimizer for Exponential Models (POEM) – for learning stochastic linear rules for structured output prediction. We present a decomposition of the POEM objective that enables efficient stochastic gradient optimization. POEM is evaluated on several multi-label classification problems showing substantially improved robustness and generalization performance compared to the state-of-the-art.

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