Google Research

Cross-Positional Attention for Debiasing Clicks

Proceedings of the Web Conference 2021 (WWW) (to appear)


A well-known challenge in leveraging implicit user feedback like clicks to improve real-world search services and recommender systems is its inherent bias. Most existing click models are based on the examination hypothesis in user behaviors and differ in how to model such an examination bias. However, they are constrained by assuming a simple position-based bias or enforcing a sequential order in user examination behaviors. These assumptions are insufficient to capture complex real-world user behaviors and hardly generalize to modern user interfaces (UI) in web applications (e.g., results shown in a grid view). In this work, we propose a fully data-driven neural model for the examination bias, Cross-Positional Attention (XPA), which is more flexible in fitting complex user behaviors. Our model leverages the attention mechanism to effectively capture cross-positional interactions among displayed items and is applicable to arbitrary UIs. We employ XPA in a novel neural click model that can both predict clicks and estimate relevance. Our experiments on offline synthetic data sets show that XPA is robust among different click generation processes. We further apply XPA to a large-scale real-world recommender system, showing significantly better results than baselines in online A/B experiments that involve millions of users. This validates the necessity to model more complex user behaviors than those proposed in the literature.

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