Improving the Exploration Strategy in Bandit Algorithms
The K-armed bandit problem is a formalization of the exploration versus exploitation dilemma, a well-known issue in stochastic optimization tasks. In a K-armed bandit problem, a player is confronted with a gambling machine with K arms where each arm is associated to an unknown gain distribution and the goal is to maximize the sum of the rewards (or minimize the sum of losses). Several approaches have been proposed in literature to deal with the K-armed bandit problem. Most of them combine a greedy exploitation strategy with a random exploratory phase. This paper focuses on the improvement of the exploration step by having recourse to the notion of probability of correct selection (PCS), a well-known notion in the simulation literature yet overlooked in the optimization domain. The rationale of our approach is to perform at each exploration step the arm sampling which maximizes the probability of selecting the optimal arm (i.e. the PCS) at the following step. This strategy is implemented by a bandit algorithm, called ε-PCSgreedy, which integrates the PCS exploration approach with the classical ε-greedy schema. A set of numerical experiments on artificial and real datasets shows that a more effective exploration may improve the performance of the entire bandit strategy.
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