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Discovering Personalized Semantics for Soft Attributes in Recommender Systems using Concept Activation Vectors

Christina Göpfert
Yinlam Chow
Ivan Vendrov
Tyler Lu
WWW22: The Web Conference 2022, Lyon, France, pp. 2411-2421


Interactive Recommender Systems (RSs) have emerged as a promising paradigm to overcome the limitations of the primitive user feedback used by traditional RSs (e.g., clicks, item consumption, ratings), allowing users to express intent, preferences, constraints, and contexts in a richer fashion using natural language. Still, more research is needed to find the most effective ways to use this feedback. One major challenge is inferring a user's intended semantic intent from given the open-ended terms (say, attributes or tags) used to describe a desired item, and utilize that to refine recommendation results. Leveraging Concept Activation Vectors (CAVs) [13], we develop a framework to learn a representation that captures the semantics of such attributes and connect them to user preferences and behaviors in RSs. One novel feature of our approach is its ability to distinguish objective and subjective attributes (including subjectivity of degree and of sense) and associate different senses of subjective attributes with different user. We demonstrate on both synthetic and real-world datasets that our CAV representation not only accurately interprets users' subjective semantics, but can also be used to improve recommendations.

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