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# Optimistic Information Directed Sampling

*Proceedings of Thirty Seventh Conference on Learning Theory*, PMLR 247:3970-4006, 2024.

#### Abstract

We study the problem of online learning in contextual bandit problems where the loss function is assumed to belong to a known parametric function class. We propose a new analytic framework for this setting that bridges the Bayesian theory of information-directed sampling due to Russo and Van Roy (2018) and the worst-case theory of Foster et al. (2021) based on the decision-estimation coefficient. Drawing from both lines of work, we propose a algorithmic template called Optimistic Information-Directed Sampling and show that it can achieve instance-dependent regret guarantees similar to the ones achievable by the classic Bayesian IDS method, but with the major advantage of not requiring any Bayesian assumptions. The key technical innovation of our analysis is introducing an optimistic surrogate model for the regret and using it to define a frequentist version of the Information Ratio of Russo and Van Roy (2018), and a less conservative version of the Decision Estimation Coefficient of Foster et al. (2021).