Constrained Approximate Maximum Entropy Learning of Markov Random Fields

author: Varun Ganapathi, Computer Science Department, Stanford University
published: July 30, 2008,   recorded: July 2008,   views: 6789


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Parameter estimation in Markov random fields (MRFs) is a difficult task, in which inference over the network is run in the inner loop of a gradient descent procedure. Replacing exact inference with approximate methods such as loopy belief propagation (LBP) can suffer from poor convergence. In this paper, we provide a different approach for combining MRF learning and Bethe approximation. We consider the dual of maximum likelihood Markov network learning - maximizing entropy with moment matching constraints - and then approximate both the objective and the constraints in the resulting optimization problem. Unlike previous work along these lines (Teh & Welling, 2003), our formulation allows parameter sharing between features in a general log-linear model, parameter regularization and conditional training. We show that piecewise training (Sutton & McCallum, 2005) is a very restricted special case of this formulation. We study two optimization strategies: one based on a single convex approximation and one that uses repeated convex approximations. We show results on several real-world networks that demonstrate that these algorithms can significantly outperform learning with loopy and piecewise. Our results also provide a framework for analyzing the trade-offs of different relaxations of the entropy objective and of the constraints.

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