A Widely Applicable Bayesian Information Criterion

Sumio Watanabe; 14(Mar):867−897, 2013.


A statistical model or a learning machine is called regular if the map taking a parameter to a probability distribution is one-to-one and if its Fisher information matrix is always positive definite. If otherwise, it is called singular. In regular statistical models, the Bayes free energy, which is defined by the minus logarithm of Bayes marginal likelihood, can be asymptotically approximated by the Schwarz Bayes information criterion (BIC), whereas in singular models such approximation does not hold.

Recently, it was proved that the Bayes free energy of a singular model is asymptotically given by a generalized formula using a birational invariant, the real log canonical threshold (RLCT), instead of half the number of parameters in BIC. Theoretical values of RLCTs in several statistical models are now being discovered based on algebraic geometrical methodology. However, it has been difficult to estimate the Bayes free energy using only training samples, because an RLCT depends on an unknown true distribution.

In the present paper, we define a widely applicable Bayesian information criterion (WBIC) by the average log likelihood function over the posterior distribution with the inverse temperature 1/log n, where n is the number of training samples. We mathematically prove that WBIC has the same asymptotic expansion as the Bayes free energy, even if a statistical model is singular for or unrealizable by a statistical model. Since WBIC can be numerically calculated without any information about a true distribution, it is a generalized version of BIC onto singular statistical models.


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