Pairwise Choice Markov Chains

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

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Stephen Ragain, Johan Ugander


As datasets capturing human choices grow in richness and scale, particularly in online domains, there is an increasing need for choice models flexible enough to handle data that violate traditional choice-theoretic axioms such as regularity, stochastic transitivity, or Luce's choice axiom. In this work we introduce the Pairwise Choice Markov Chain (PCMC) model of discrete choice, an inferentially tractable model that does not assume these traditional axioms while still satisfying the foundational axiom of uniform expansion, which can be viewed as a weaker version of Luce's axiom. We show that the PCMC model significantly outperforms the Multinomial Logit (MNL) model in prediction tasks on two empirical data sets known to exhibit violations of Luce's axiom. Our analysis also synthesizes several recent observations connecting the Multinomial Logit model and Markov chains; the PCMC model retains the Multinomial Logit model as a special case.