Archive for Stack Exchange

golden Bayesian!

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2017 by xi'an

ghost [parameters] in the [Bayesian] shell

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on August 3, 2017 by xi'an

This question appeared on Stack Exchange (X Validated) two days ago. And the equalities indeed seem to suffer from several mathematical inconsistencies, as I pointed out in my Answer. However, what I find most crucial in this question is that the quantity on the left hand side is meaningless. Parameters for different models only make sense within their own model. Hence when comparing models parameters cannot co-exist across models. What I suspect [without direct access to Kruschke’s Doing Bayesian Data Analysis book and as was later confirmed by John] is that he is using pseudo-priors in order to apply Carlin and Chib (1995) resolution [by saturation of the parameter space] of simulating over a trans-dimensional space…

simulation under zero measure constraints

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on November 17, 2016 by xi'an

A theme that comes up fairly regularly on X validated is the production of a sample with given moments, either for calibration motives or from a misunderstanding of the difference between a distribution mean and a sample average. Here are some entries on that topic:

In most of those questions, the constraint in on the sum or mean of the sample, which allows for an easy resolution by a change of variables. It however gets somewhat harder when the constraint involves more moments or, worse, an implicit solution to an equation. A good example of the later is the quest for a sample with a given maximum likelihood estimate in the case this MLE cannot be derived analytically. As for instance with a location-scale t sample…

Actually, even when the constraint is solely on the sum, a relevant question is the production of an efficient simulation mechanism. Using a Gibbs sampler that changes one component of the sample at each iteration does not qualify, even though it eventually produces the proper sample. Except for small samples. As in this example

s0=.5 #fixed average
for (t in 2:T){
 for (i in 1:(n-1)){

For very large samples, I figure that proposing from the unconstrained density can achieve a sufficient efficiency, but the in-between setting remains an interesting problem.

SAS on Bayes

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on November 8, 2016 by xi'an

Following a question on X Validated, I became aware of the following descriptions of the pros and cons of Bayesian analysis, as perceived by whoever (Tim Arnold?) wrote SAS/STAT(R) 9.2 User’s Guide, Second Edition. I replied more specifically on the point

It [Bayesian inference] provides inferences that are conditional on the data and are exact, without reliance on asymptotic approximation. Small sample inference proceeds in the same manner as if one had a large sample. Bayesian analysis also can estimate any functions of parameters directly, without using the “plug-in” method (a way to estimate functionals by plugging the estimated parameters in the functionals).

which I find utterly confusing and not particularly relevant. The other points in the list are more traditional, except for this one

It provides interpretable answers, such as “the true parameter θ has a probability of 0.95 of falling in a 95% credible interval.”

that I find somewhat unappealing in that the 95% probability has only relevance wrt to the resulting posterior, hence has no absolute (and definitely no frequentist) meaning. The criticisms of the prior selection

It does not tell you how to select a prior. There is no correct way to choose a prior. Bayesian inferences require skills to translate subjective prior beliefs into a mathematically formulated prior. If you do not proceed with caution, you can generate misleading results.

It can produce posterior distributions that are heavily influenced by the priors. From a practical point of view, it might sometimes be difficult to convince subject matter experts who do not agree with the validity of the chosen prior.

are traditional but nonetheless irksome. Once acknowledged there is no correct or true prior, it follows naturally that the resulting inference will depend on the choice of the prior and has to be understood conditional on the prior, which is why the credible interval has for instance an epistemic rather than frequentist interpretation. There is also little reason for trying to convince a fellow Bayesian statistician about one’s prior. Everything is conditional on the chosen prior and I see less and less why this should be an issue.


maximum of a Dirichlet vector

Posted in Books, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on September 26, 2016 by xi'an

An intriguing question on Stack Exchange this weekend, about the distribution of max{p¹,p²,…}the maximum component of a Dirichlet vector Dir(a¹,a²,…) with arbitrary hyper-parameters. Writing the density of this random variable is feasible, using its connection with a Gamma vector, but I could not find a closed-form expression. If there is such an expression, it may follow from the many properties of the Dirichlet distribution and I’d be interested in learning about it. (Very nice stamp, by the way! I wonder if the original formula was made with LaTeX…)

the random variable that was always less than its mean…

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics with tags , , , , , on May 30, 2016 by xi'an

Although this is far from a paradox when realising why the phenomenon occurs, it took me a few lines to understand why the empirical average of a log-normal sample is apparently a biased estimator of its mean. And why conversely the biased plug-in estimator does not appear to present a bias. To illustrate this “paradox” consider the picture below which compares both estimators of the mean of a log-normal LN(0,σ²) distribution as σ² increases: blue stands for the empirical mean, while gold corresponds to the plug-in estimator exp(σ²/2) when σ² is estimated from the log-sample, as in a normal sample. (The sample is of size 10⁶.) The gold sequence remains around one, while the blue one drifts away towards zero…

The question came on X validated and my first reaction was to doubt an implementation which outcome was so counter-intuitive. But then I thought further about the representation of a log-normal variate as exp(σξ) when ξ is a standard Normal variate. When σ grows large enough, it is near impossible for σξ to be larger than σ². More precisely,


which can be arbitrarily small.

occupancy rules

Posted in Kids, R, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on May 23, 2016 by xi'an

While the last riddle on The Riddler was rather anticlimactic, namely to find the mean of the number Y of empty bins in a uniform multinomial with n bins and m draws, with solution


[which still has a link with e in that the fraction of empty bins converges to e⁻¹ when n=m], this led me to some more involved investigation on the distribution of Y. While it can be shown directly that the probability that k bins are non-empty is

{n \choose k}\sum_{i=1}^k (-1)^{k-i}{k \choose i}(i/n)^m

with an R representation by

for (k in 1:n)

I wanted to take advantage of the moments of Y, since it writes as a sum of n indicators, counting the number of empty cells. However, the higher moments of Y are not as straightforward as its expectation and I struggled with the representation until I came upon this formula

\mathbb{E}[Y^k]=\sum_{i=1}^k {k \choose i} i! S(k,i) \left( 1-\frac{i}{n}\right)^m

where S(k,i) denotes the Stirling number of the second kind… Or i!S(n,i) is the number of surjections from a set of size n to a set of size i. Which leads to the distribution of Y by inverting the moment equations, as in the following R code:

  for (k in 1:(n-1)){
   for (i in 1:k)

that I still checked by raw simulations from the multinomial