Published on Sat Sep 08 2012

Bandits with heavy tail

Sébastien Bubeck, Nicolò Cesa-Bianchi, Gábor Lugosi

The stochastic multi-armed bandit problem is well understood when the reward distributions are sub-Gaussian. Surprisingly, moments of order 2 are sufficient to obtain regret bounds of the same order.

0
0
0
Abstract

The stochastic multi-armed bandit problem is well understood when the reward distributions are sub-Gaussian. In this paper we examine the bandit problem under the weaker assumption that the distributions have moments of order 1+\epsilon, for some $\epsilon \in (0,1]$. Surprisingly, moments of order 2 (i.e., finite variance) are sufficient to obtain regret bounds of the same order as under sub-Gaussian reward distributions. In order to achieve such regret, we define sampling strategies based on refined estimators of the mean such as the truncated empirical mean, Catoni's M-estimator, and the median-of-means estimator. We also derive matching lower bounds that also show that the best achievable regret deteriorates when \epsilon <1.