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Learning a Mixture of Two Multinomial Logits

Flavio Chierichetti
ICML (2018)


The classical Multinomial Logit (MNL) is a behavioral model for user choice. In this model, a user is offered a slate of choices (a subset of a finite universe of n items), and selects exactly one item from the slate, each with probability proportional to its (positive) weight. Given a set of observed slates and choices, the likelihood-maximizing item weights are easy to learn at scale, and easy to interpret. However, the model fails to represent common real-world behavior. As a result, researchers in user choice often turn to mixtures of MNLs, which are known to approximate a large class of models of rational user behavior. Unfortunately, the only known algorithms for this problem have been heuristic in nature. In this paper we give the first polynomial-time algorithms for exact learning of uniform mixtures of two MNLs. Interestingly, the parameters of the model can be learned for any n by sampling the behavior of random users only on slates of sizes 2 and 3; in contrast, we show that slates of size 2 are insufficient by themselves.