Online Clustering of Bandits with Misspecified User Models

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Zhiyong Wang, Jize Xie, Xutong Liu, Shuai Li, John C.S. Lui


The contextual linear bandit is an important online learning problem where given arm features, a learning agent selects an arm at each round to maximize the cumulative rewards in the long run. A line of works, called the clustering of bandits (CB), utilize the collaborative effect over user preferences and have shown significant improvements over classic linear bandit algorithms. However, existing CB algorithms require well-specified linear user models and can fail when this critical assumption does not hold. Whether robust CB algorithms can be designed for more practical scenarios with misspecified user models remains an open problem. In this paper, we are the first to present the important problem of clustering of bandits with misspecified user models (CBMUM), where the expected rewards in user models can be perturbed away from perfect linear models. We devise two robust CB algorithms, RCLUMB and RSCLUMB (representing the learned clustering structure with dynamic graph and sets, respectively), that can accommodate the inaccurate user preference estimations and erroneous clustering caused by model misspecifications. We prove regret upper bounds of $O(\epsilon_*T\sqrt{md\log T} + d\sqrt{mT}\log T)$ for our algorithms under milder assumptions than previous CB works, which match the lower bound asymptotically in $T$ up to logarithmic factors, and also match the state-of-the-art results in several degenerate cases. Our regret analysis is novel and different from the typical proof flow of previous CB works. The techniques in proving the regret caused by misclustering users are quite general and may be of independent interest. Experiments on both synthetic and real-world data show our outperformance over previous algorithms.