Field-wise Learning for Multi-field Categorical Data

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

AuthorFeedback Bibtex MetaReview Paper Review Supplemental


Zhibin Li, Jian Zhang, Yongshun Gong, Yazhou Yao, Qiang Wu


We propose a new method for learning with multi-field categorical data. Multi-field categorical data are usually collected over many heterogeneous groups. These groups can reflect in the categories under a field. The existing methods try to learn a universal model that fits all data, which is challenging and inevitably results in learning a complex model. In contrast, we propose a field-wise learning method leveraging the natural structure of data to learn simple yet efficient one-to-one field-focused models with appropriate constraints. In doing this, the models can be fitted to each category and thus can better capture the underlying differences in data. We present a model that utilizes linear models with variance and low-rank constraints, to help it generalize better and reduce the number of parameters. The model is also interpretable in a field-wise manner. As the dimensionality of multi-field categorical data can be very high, the models applied to such data are mostly over-parameterized. Our theoretical analysis can potentially explain the effect of over-parametrization on the generalization of our model. It also supports the variance constraints in the learning objective. The experiment results on two large-scale datasets show the superior performance of our model, the trend of the generalization error bound, and the interpretability of learning outcomes. Our code is available at