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# PAC Battling Bandits in the Plackett-Luce Model

*Proceedings of the 30th International Conference on Algorithmic Learning Theory*, PMLR 98:700-737, 2019.

#### Abstract

We introduce the probably approximately correct (PAC) \emph{Battling-Bandit} problem with the Plackett-Luce (PL) subset choice model–an online learning framework where at each trial the learner chooses a subset of $k$ arms from a fixed set of $n$ arms, and subsequently observes a stochastic feedback indicating preference information of the items in the chosen subset, e.g., the most preferred item or ranking of the top $m$ most preferred items etc. The objective is to identify a near-best item in the underlying PL model with high confidence. This generalizes the well-studied PAC \emph{Dueling-Bandit} problem over $n$ arms, which aims to recover the \emph{best-arm} from pairwise preference information, and is known to require $O(\frac{n}{\epsilon^2} \ln \frac{1}{\delta})$ sample complexity. We study the sample complexity of this problem under various feedback models: (1) Winner of the subset (WI), and (2) Ranking of top-$m$ items (TR) for $2\le m \le k$. We show, surprisingly, that with winner information (WI) feedback over subsets of size $2 \leq k \leq n$, the best achievable sample complexity is still $O\left( \frac{n}{\epsilon^2} \ln \frac{1}{\delta}\right)$, independent of $k$, and the same as that in the Dueling Bandit setting ($k=2$). For the more general top-$m$ ranking (TR) feedback model, we show a significantly smaller lower bound on sample complexity of $\Omega\bigg( \frac{n}{m\epsilon^2} \ln \frac{1}{\delta}\bigg)$, which suggests a multiplicative reduction by a factor ${m}$ owing to the additional information revealed from preferences among $m$ items instead of just $1$. We also propose two algorithms for the PAC problem with the TR feedback model with optimal (upto logarithmic factors) sample complexity guarantees, establishing the increase in statistical efficiency from exploiting rank-ordered feedback.