CauseRec: Counterfactual User Sequence Synthesis for Sequential Recommendation

by   Shengyu Zhang, et al.
National University of Singapore
Zhejiang University

Learning user representations based on historical behaviors lies at the core of modern recommender systems. Recent advances in sequential recommenders have convincingly demonstrated high capability in extracting effective user representations from the given behavior sequences. Despite significant progress, we argue that solely modeling the observational behaviors sequences may end up with a brittle and unstable system due to the noisy and sparse nature of user interactions logged. In this paper, we propose to learn accurate and robust user representations, which are required to be less sensitive to (attack on) noisy behaviors and trust more on the indispensable ones, by modeling counterfactual data distribution. Specifically, given an observed behavior sequence, the proposed CauseRec framework identifies dispensable and indispensable concepts at both the fine-grained item level and the abstract interest level. CauseRec conditionally samples user concept sequences from the counterfactual data distributions by replacing dispensable and indispensable concepts within the original concept sequence. With user representations obtained from the synthesized user sequences, CauseRec performs contrastive user representation learning by contrasting the counterfactual with the observational. We conduct extensive experiments on real-world public recommendation benchmarks and justify the effectiveness of CauseRec with multi-aspects model analysis. The results demonstrate that the proposed CauseRec outperforms state-of-the-art sequential recommenders by learning accurate and robust user representations.


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