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Axioms for Learning from Pairwise Comparisons

Ritesh Noothigattu · Dominik Peters · Ariel Procaccia

Poster Session 5 #1447


To be well-behaved, systems that process preference data must satisfy certain conditions identified by economic decision theory and by social choice theory. In ML, preferences and rankings are commonly learned by fitting a probabilistic model to noisy preference data. The behavior of this learning process from the view of economic theory has previously been studied for the case where the data consists of rankings. In practice, it is more common to have only pairwise comparison data, and the formal properties of the associated learning problem are more challenging to analyze. We show that a large class of random utility models (including the Thurstone–Mosteller Model), when estimated using the MLE, satisfy a Pareto efficiency condition. These models also satisfy a strong monotonicity property, which implies that the learning process is responsive to input data. On the other hand, we show that these models fail certain other consistency conditions from social choice theory, and in particular do not always follow the majority opinion. Our results inform existing and future applications of random utility models for societal decision making.

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