Twenty questions with noise: Bayes optimal policies for entropy loss

Jedynak, Bruno; Frazier, Peter; Sznitman, Raphael (2012). Twenty questions with noise: Bayes optimal policies for entropy loss. Journal of Applied Probability, 49(1), pp. 114-136. Applied Probability Trust

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We consider the problem of twenty questions with noisy answers, in which we seek to find a target by repeatedly choosing a set, asking an oracle whether the target lies in this set, and obtaining an answer corrupted by noise. Starting with a prior distribution on the target's location, we seek to minimize the expected entropy of the posterior distribution. We formulate this problem as a dynamic program and show that any policy optimizing the one-step expected reduction in entropy is also optimal over the full horizon. Two such Bayes optimal policies are presented: one generalizes the probabilistic bisection policy due to Horstein and the other asks a deterministic set of questions. We study the structural properties of the latter, and illustrate its use in a computer vision application.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research > ARTORG Center - AI in Medical Imaging Laboratory

UniBE Contributor:

Sznitman, Raphael


500 Science > 510 Mathematics




Applied Probability Trust




Raphael Sznitman

Date Deposited:

21 May 2015 13:30

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:47




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