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Choosing the Best of Both Worlds: Diverse and Novel Recommendations through Multi-Objective Reinforcement Learning

Dusan Stamenkovic
Alexandros Karatzoglou
Ioannis Arapakis
Kleomenis Katevas
Xin Xin
15th ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining - WSDM 2022, Arizona, USA (to appear)
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Since the inception of Recommender Systems (RS), the accuracy of the recommendations in terms of relevance has been the golden criterion for evaluating the quality of RS algorithms. However, by focusing on item relevance, one pays a significant price in terms of other important metrics: users get stuck in a "filter bubble" and their array of options is significantly reduced, hence degrading the quality of the user experience and leading to churn. Recommendation, and in particular session-based/sequential recommendation, is a complex task with multiple - and often conflicting objectives -that existing state-of-the-art approaches fail to address.In this work, we take on the aforementioned challenge and introduce Scalarized Multi-Objective Reinforcement Learning (SMORL)for the RS setting, a novel Reinforcement Learning (RL) framework that can effectively address multi-objective recommendation tasks.The proposed SMORL agent augments standard recommendation models with additional RL layers that enforce it to simultaneously satisfy three principal objectives:accuracy, diversity, and novelty of recommendations. We integrate this framework with four state-of-the-art session-based recommendation models and compare it with a single-objective RL agent that only focuses on accuracy. Our experimental results on two real-world datasets reveal a substantial increase in aggregate diversity, a moderate increase in accuracy, reduced repetitiveness of recommendations, and demonstrate the importance of reinforcing diversity and novelty as complementary objectives.