Noise-Adaptive Thompson Sampling for Linear Contextual Bandits

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Ruitu Xu, Yifei Min, Tianhao Wang


Linear contextual bandits represent a fundamental class of models with numerous real-world applications, and it is critical to develop algorithms that can effectively manage noise with unknown variance, ensuring provable guarantees for both worst-case constant-variance noise and deterministic reward scenarios. In this paper, we study linear contextual bandits with heteroscedastic noise and propose the first noise-adaptive Thompson sampling-style algorithm that achieves a variance-dependent regret upper bound of $\widetilde O\Big(d^{3/2} + d^{3/2} \sqrt{\sum_{t=1}^T \sigma_t^2}\Big)$, where $d$ is the dimension of the context vectors and $\sigma_t^2$ is the variance of the reward in round $t$. This recovers the existing $\widetilde O(d^{3/2}\sqrt{T})$ regret guarantee in the constant-variance regime and further improves to $\widetilde O(d^{3/2})$ in the deterministic regime, thus achieving a smooth interpolation in between. Our approach utilizes a stratified sampling procedure to overcome the too-conservative optimism in the linear Thompson sampling algorithm for linear contextual bandits.