Covariance-adaptive best arm identification

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


El Mehdi Saad, Gilles Blanchard, Nicolas Verzelen


We consider the problem of best arm identification in the multi-armed bandit model, under fixed confidence. Given a confidence input $\delta$, the goal is to identify the arm with the highest mean reward with a probability of at least $1 - \delta$, while minimizing the number of arm pulls. While the literature provides solutions to this problem under the assumption of independent arms distributions, we propose a more flexible scenario where arms can be dependent and rewards can be sampled simultaneously. This framework allows the learner to estimate the covariance among the arms distributions, enabling a more efficient identification of the best arm. The relaxed setting we propose is relevant in various applications, such as clinical trials, where similarities between patients or drugs suggest underlying correlations in the outcomes. We introduce new algorithms that adapt to the unknown covariance of the arms and demonstrate through theoretical guarantees that substantial improvement can be achieved over the standard setting. Additionally, we provide new lower bounds for the relaxed setting and present numerical simulations that support their theoretical findings.