Future Impact Decomposition in Request-level Recommendations


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In recommender systems, reinforcement learning solutions have shown promising results in optimizing the interaction sequence between users and the system over the long-term performance. For practical reasons, the policy's actions are typically designed as recommending a list of items to handle users' frequent and continuous browsing requests more efficiently. In this list-wise recommendation scenario, the user state is updated upon every request in the corresponding MDP formulation. However, this request-level formulation is essentially inconsistent with the user's item-level behavior. In this study, we demonstrate that an item-level optimization approach can better utilize item characteristics and optimize the policy's performance even under the request-level MDP. We support this claim by comparing the performance of standard request-level methods with the proposed item-level actor-critic framework in both simulation and online experiments. Furthermore, we show that a reward-based future decomposition strategy can better express the item-wise future impact and improve the recommendation accuracy in the long term. To achieve a more thorough understanding of the decomposition strategy, we propose a model-based re-weighting framework with adversarial learning that further boost the performance and investigate its correlation with the reward-based strategy.
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