Uniform Random Generation and Dominance Testing for CP-Nets

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Thomas E. Allen
Judy Goldsmith
Hayden Elizabeth Justice
Nicholas Mattei
Kayla Raines


The generation of preferences represented as CP-nets for experiments and empirical testing has typically been done in an ad hoc manner that may have introduced a large statistical bias in previous experimental work. We present novel polynomial-time algorithms for generating CP-nets with n nodes and maximum in-degree c uniformly at random. We extend this result to several statistical cultures commonly used in the social choice and preference reasoning literature. A CP-net is composed of both a graph and underlying cp-statements; our algorithm is the first to provably generate both the graph structure and cp-statements, and hence the underlying preference orders themselves, uniformly at random. We have released this code as a free and open source project. We use the uniform generation algorithm to investigate the maximum and expected flipping lengths, i.e., the maximum length over all outcomes o and o', of a minimal proof that o is preferred to o'. Using our new statistical evidence, we conjecture that, for CP-nets with binary variables and complete conditional preference tables, the expected flipping length is polynomial in the number of preference variables. This has positive implications for the usability of CP-nets as compact preference models.

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