Statistical Models for Partial Membership

author: Katherine A. Heller, Department of Statistical Science, Duke University
published: Aug. 1, 2008,   recorded: July 2008,   views: 4620


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We present a principled Bayesian framework for modeling partial memberships of data points to clusters. Unlike a standard mixture model which assumes that each data point belongs to one and only one mixture component, or cluster, a partial membership model allows data points to have fractional membership in multiple clusters. Algorithms which assign data points partial memberships to clusters can be useful for tasks such as clustering genes based on microarray data and global positioning and orbit determination. Our Bayesian Partial Membership Model (BPM) uses exponential family distributions to model each cluster, and a product of these distibtutions, with weighted parameters, to model each datapoint. Here the weights correspond to the degree to which the datapoint belongs to each cluster. All parameters in the BPM are continuous, so we can use Hybrid Monte Carlo to perform inference and learning. We discuss relationships between the BPM and Latent Dirichlet Allocation, Mixed Membership models, Exponential Family PCA, and fuzzy clustering. Lastly, we show some experimental results and discuss nonparametric extensions to our model.

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