Thompson Sampling with a Mixture Prior

Joey Hong, Branislav Kveton, Manzil Zaheer, Mohammad Ghavamzadeh, Craig Boutilier

We study Thompson sampling (TS) in online decision-making problems where the uncertain environment is sampled from a mixture distribution. This is relevant to multi-task settings, where a learning agent is faced with different classes of problems. We incorporate this structure in a natural way by initializing TS with a mixture prior -- dubbed MixTS -- and develop a novel, general technique for analyzing the regret of TS with such priors. We apply this technique to derive Bayes regret bounds for MixTS in both linear bandits and tabular Markov decision processes (MDPs). Our regret bounds reflect the structure of the problem and depend on the number of components and confidence width of each component of the prior. Finally, we demonstrate the empirical effectiveness of MixTS in both synthetic and real-world experiments.

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