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Unfolding Latent Tree Structures using 4th Order Tensors

Mariya Ishteva, Haesun Park, Le Song
JMLR W&CP 28 (3) : 316–324, 2013


Discovering the latent structure from many observed variables is an important yet challenging learning task. Existing approaches for discovering latent structures often require the unknown number of hidden states as an input. In this paper, we propose a quartet based approach which is agnostic to this number. The key contribution is a novel rank characterization of the tensor associated with the marginal distribution of a quartet. This characterization allows us to design a nuclear norm based test for resolving quartet relations. We then use the quartet test as a subroutine in a divide-and-conquer algorithm for recovering the latent tree structure. Under mild conditions, the algorithm is consistent and its error probability decays exponentially with increasing sample size. We demonstrate that the proposed approach compares favorably to alternatives. In a real world stock dataset, it also discovers meaningful groupings of variables, and produces a model that fits the data better.

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