Learning Mixtures of Plackett-Luce Models from Structured Partial Orders

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Zhibing Zhao, Lirong Xia


Mixtures of ranking models have been widely used for heterogeneous preferences. However, learning a mixture model is highly nontrivial, especially when the dataset consists of partial orders. In such cases, the parameter of the model may not be even identifiable. In this paper, we focus on three popular structures of partial orders: ranked top-$l_1$, $l_2$-way, and choice data over a subset of alternatives. We prove that when the dataset consists of combinations of ranked top-$l_1$ and $l_2$-way (or choice data over up to $l_2$ alternatives), mixture of $k$ Plackett-Luce models is not identifiable when $l_1+l_2\le 2k-1$ ($l_2$ is set to $1$ when there are no $l_2$-way orders). We also prove that under some combinations, including ranked top-$3$, ranked top-$2$ plus $2$-way, and choice data over up to $4$ alternatives, mixtures of two Plackett-Luce models are identifiable. Guided by our theoretical results, we propose efficient generalized method of moments (GMM) algorithms to learn mixtures of two Plackett-Luce models, which are proven consistent. Our experiments demonstrate the efficacy of our algorithms. Moreover, we show that when full rankings are available, learning from different marginal events (partial orders) provides tradeoffs between statistical efficiency and computational efficiency.