Improving Welfare in One-sided Matching using Simple Threshold Queries

Thomas Ma, Vijay Menon, Kate Larson

We study one-sided matching problems where $n$ agents have preferences over $m$ objects and each of them need to be assigned to at most one object. Most work on such problems assume that the agents only have ordinal preferences and usually the goal in them is to compute a matching that satisfies some notion of economic efficiency. However, in reality, agents may have some preference intensities or cardinal utilities that, e.g., indicate that they like an an object much more than another object, and not taking these into account can result in a loss in welfare. While one way to potentially account for these is to directly ask the agents for this information, such an elicitation process is cognitively demanding. Therefore, we focus on learning more about their cardinal preferences using simple threshold queries which ask an agent if they value an object greater than a certain value, and use this in turn to come up with algorithms that produce a matching that, for a particular economic notion $X$, satisfies $X$ and also achieves a good approximation to the optimal welfare among all matchings that satisfy $X$. We focus on several notions of economic efficiency, and look at both adaptive and non-adaptive algorithms. Overall, our results show how one can improve welfare by even non-adaptively asking the agents for just one bit of extra information per object.

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