Deconfounded Recommendation for Alleviating Bias Amplification

22 May 2021  ·  Wenjie Wang, Fuli Feng, Xiangnan He, Xiang Wang, Tat-Seng Chua ·

Recommender systems usually amplify the biases in the data. The model learned from historical interactions with imbalanced item distribution will amplify the imbalance by over-recommending items from the major groups. Addressing this issue is essential for a healthy ecosystem of recommendation in the long run. Existing works apply bias control to the ranking targets (e.g., calibration, fairness, and diversity), but ignore the true reason for bias amplification and trade-off the recommendation accuracy. In this work, we scrutinize the cause-effect factors for bias amplification, identifying the main reason lies in the confounder effect of imbalanced item distribution on user representation and prediction score. The existence of such confounder pushes us to go beyond merely modeling the conditional probability and embrace the causal modeling for recommendation. Towards this end, we propose a Deconfounded Recommender System (DecRS), which models the causal effect of user representation on the prediction score. The key to eliminating the impact of the confounder lies in backdoor adjustment, which is however difficult to do due to the infinite sample space of the confounder. For this challenge, we contribute an approximation operator for backdoor adjustment which can be easily plugged into most recommender models. Lastly, we devise an inference strategy to dynamically regulate backdoor adjustment according to user status. We instantiate DecRS on two representative models FM and NFM, and conduct extensive experiments over two benchmarks to validate the superiority of our proposed DecRS.

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