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# Best-item Learning in Random Utility Models with Subset Choices

*Proceedings of the Twenty Third International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics*, PMLR 108:4281-4291, 2020.

#### Abstract

We consider the problem of PAC learning the most valuable item from a pool of $n$ items using sequential, adaptively chosen plays of subsets of $k$ items, when, upon playing a subset, the learner receives relative feedback sampled according to a general Random Utility Model (RUM) with independent noise perturbations to the latent item utilities. We identify a new property of such a RUM, termed the minimum advantage, that helps in characterizing the complexity of separating pairs of items based on their relative win/loss empirical counts, and can be bounded as a function of the noise distribution alone. We give a learning algorithm for general RUMs, based on pairwise relative counts of items and hierarchical elimination, along with a new PAC sample complexity guarantee of $O(\frac{n}{c^2\epsilon^2} \log \frac{k}{\delta})$ rounds to identify an $\epsilon$-optimal item with confidence $1-\delta$, when the worst case pairwise advantage in the RUM has sensitivity at least $c$ to the parameter gaps of items. Fundamental lower bounds on PAC sample complexity show that this is near-optimal in terms of its dependence on $n,k$ and $c$.