S³-PASADENA seminar : Detecting confounding in multivariate linear models via spectral analysis

Seminar on January 31, 2017, 10:30 AM at CentraleSupelec (Gif-sur-Yvette) Salle du conseil du L2S - B4.40
Dominik Janzing, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Tuebingen, Germany

We study a model where one target variable Y is correlated
with  a vector X:=(X_1,...,X_d) of predictor variables  being potential causes of Y.
We describe  a method that infers to what extent the statistical dependences between X and Y
are due to the influence of X on Y and to what extent due to a hidden common cause
(confounder) of X and Y. The method is based on an independence assumption stating that, in the absence of confounding,
the vector of regression coefficients describing the influence of each X on Y has 'generic orientation'
relative to the eigenspaces  of the covariance matrix of X. For the special case of a scalar confounder we show that confounding typically spoils this generic orientation in a characteristic way that can be used to quantitatively estimate the amount of confounding.
I also show some encouraging experiments with real data, but the method is work in progress and critical comments are highly appreciated.

Postulating 'generic orientation' is inspired by a more general postulate stating that
P(cause) and P(effect|cause) are independent objects of Nature and therefore don't contain information about each other [1,2,3],
an idea that inspired several causal inference methods already, e.g. [4,5].

[1] Janzing, Schoelkopf: Causal inference using the algorithmic Markov condition, IEEE TIT 2010.
[2] Lemeire, Janzing: Replacing causal faithfulness with the algorithmic independence of conditionals, Minds and Machines, 2012.
[3] Schoelkopf et al: On causal and anticausal learning, ICML 2012.
[4] Janzing et al: Telling cause frome effect based on high-dimensional observations, ICML 2010.
[5] Shajarisales et al: Telling cause from effect in deterministic linear dynamical systems, ICML 2015.