Causal Intervention for Leveraging Popularity Bias in Recommendation

by   Yang Zhang, et al.

Recommender system usually faces popularity bias issues: from the data perspective, items exhibit uneven (long-tail) distribution on the interaction frequency; from the method perspective, collaborative filtering methods are prone to amplify the bias by over-recommending popular items. It is undoubtedly critical to consider popularity bias in recommender systems, and existing work mainly eliminates the bias effect. However, we argue that not all biases in the data are bad – some items demonstrate higher popularity because of their better intrinsic quality. Blindly pursuing unbiased learning may remove the beneficial patterns in the data, degrading the recommendation accuracy and user satisfaction. This work studies an unexplored problem in recommendation – how to leverage popularity bias to improve the recommendation accuracy. The key lies in two aspects: how to remove the bad impact of popularity bias during training, and how to inject the desired popularity bias in the inference stage that generates top-K recommendations. This questions the causal mechanism of the recommendation generation process. Along this line, we find that item popularity plays the role of confounder between the exposed items and the observed interactions, causing the bad effect of bias amplification. To achieve our goal, we propose a new training and inference paradigm for recommendation named Popularity-bias Deconfounding and Adjusting (PDA). It removes the confounding popularity bias in model training and adjusts the recommendation score with desired popularity bias via causal intervention. We demonstrate the new paradigm on latent factor model and perform extensive experiments on three real-world datasets. Empirical studies validate that the deconfounded training is helpful to discover user real interests and the inference adjustment with popularity bias could further improve the recommendation accuracy.


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