CAB: Continuous Adaptive Blending Estimator for Policy Evaluation and Learning


The ability to perform offline A/B-testing and off-policy learning using logged contextual bandit feedback is highly desirable in a broad range of applications, including recommender systems, search engines, ad placement, and personalized health care. Both offline A/B-testing and offpolicy learning require a counterfactual estimator that evaluates how some new policy would have performed, if it had been used instead of the logging policy. In this paper, we present and analyze a family of counterfactual estimators which subsumes most estimators proposed to date. Most importantly, this analysis identifies a new estimator – called Continuous Adaptive Blending (CAB) – which enjoys many advantageous theoretical and practical properties. In particular, it can be substantially less biased than clipped Inverse Propensity Score (IPS) weighting and the Direct Method, and it can have less variance than Doubly Robust and IPS estimators. In addition, it is subdifferentiable such that it can be used for learning, unlike the SWITCH estimator. Experimental results show that CAB provides excellent evaluation accuracy and outperforms other counterfactual estimators in terms of learning performance.

Accepted at NIPS 2018 Workshop on Causal Learning and ICML 2019