Sampling Constrained Probability Distributions Using Spherical Augmentation

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Statistical models with constrained probability distributions are abundant in machine learning. Some examples include regression models with norm constraints (e.g., Lasso), probit, many copula models, and latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA). Bayesian inference involving probability distributions confined to constrained domains could be quite challenging for commonly used sampling algorithms. In this work, we propose a novel augmentation technique that handles a wide range of constraints by mapping the constrained domain to a sphere in the augmented space. By moving freely on the surface of this sphere, sampling algorithms handle constraints implicitly and generate proposals that remain within boundaries when mapped back to the original space. Our proposed method, called Spherical Augmentation, provides a mathematically natural and computationally efficient framework for sampling from constrained probability distributions. We show the advantages of our method over state-of-the-art sampling algorithms, such as exact Hamiltonian Monte Carlo, using several examples including truncated Gaussian distributions, Bayesian Lasso, Bayesian bridge regression, reconstruction of quantized stationary Gaussian process, and LDA for topic modeling.




Lan, S., & Shahbaba, B. (2016). Sampling Constrained Probability Distributions Using Spherical Augmentation. In Advances in Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (pp. 25–71). Springer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH.

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