Linear and Nonlinear Models: Fixed effects, random effects, and total least squares

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As we have said before, least squares regression attempts to minimize the sum of the squared differences between the values predicted by the model and the values actually observed in the training data. More formally, least squares regression is trying to find the constant coefficients c1, c2, c3, …, cn to minimize the quantity.

Applications of linear and nonlinear models fixed effects random effe…

But why is it the sum of the squared errors that we are interested in? This not necessarily desirable result is a consequence of the method for measuring error that least squares employs. In general we would rather have a small sum of squared errors rather than a large one all else being equal , but that does not mean that the sum of squared errors is the best measure of error for us to try and minimize. The simple conclusion is that the way that least squares regression measures error is often not justified. Lets use a simplistic and artificial example to illustrate this point.

Suppose that we are in the insurance business and have to predict when it is that people will die so that we can appropriately value their insurance policies. Furthermore, suppose that when we incorrectly identify the year when a person will die, our company will be exposed to losing an amount of money that is proportional to the absolute value of the error in our prediction.

In other words, if we predict that someone will die in , but they actually die in , we will lose half as much money as if they died in , since in the latter case our estimate was off by twice as many years as in the former case. If we are concerned with losing as little money as possible, then it is is clear that the right notion of error to minimize in our model is the sum of the absolute value of the errors in our predictions since this quantity will be proportional to the total money lost , not the sum of the squared errors in predictions that least squares uses.

Sum of squared error minimization is very popular because the equations involved tend to work out nice mathematically often as matrix equations leading to algorithms that are easy to analyze and implement on computers. But frequently this does not provide the best way of measuring errors for a given problem. It should be noted that there are certain special cases when minimizing the sum of squared errors is justified due to theoretical considerations.

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Suppose that we have samples from a function that we are attempting to fit, where noise has been added to the values of the dependent variable, and the distribution of noise added at each point may depend on the location of that point in feature space. On the other hand, if we instead minimize the sum of the absolute value of the errors, this will produce estimates of the median of the true function at each point. Since the mean has some desirable properties and, in particular, since the noise term is sometimes known to have a mean of zero, exceptional situations like this one can occasionally justify the minimization of the sum of squared errors rather than of other error functions.

Interestingly enough, even if the underlying system that we are attempting to model truly is linear, and even if for the task at hand the best way of measuring error truly is the sum of squared errors, and even if we have plenty of training data compared to the number of independent variables in our model, and even if our training data does not have significant outliers or dependence between independent variables, it is STILL not necessarily the case that least squares in its usual form is the optimal model to use.

The difficulty is that the level of noise in our data may be dependent on what region of our feature space we are in. For example, going back to our height prediction scenario, there may be more variation in the heights of people who are ten years old than in those who are fifty years old, or there more be more variation in the heights of people who weight pounds than in those who weight pounds.

Applications of Linear and Nonlinear Models

The upshot of this is that some points in our training data are more likely to be effected by noise than some other such points, which means that some points in our training set are more reliable than others. In practice though, since the amount of noise at each point in feature space is typically not known, approximate methods such as feasible generalized least squares which attempt to estimate the optimal weight for each training point are used.

The problem of selecting the wrong independent variables i. Clearly, using these features the prediction problem is essentially impossible because their is so little relationship if any at all between the independent variables and the dependent variable. No model or learning algorithm no matter how good is going to rectify this situation.

Even if many of our features are in fact good ones, the genuine relations between the independent variables the dependent variable may well be overwhelmed by the effect of many poorly selected features that add noise to the learning process. When carrying out any form of regression, it is extremely important to carefully select the features that will be used by the regression algorithm, including those features that are likely to have a strong effect on the dependent variable, and excluding those that are unlikely to have much effect.

While least squares regression is designed to handle noise in the dependent variable, the same is not the case with noise errors in the independent variables. Noise in the features can arise for a variety of reasons depending on the context, including measurement error, transcription error if data was entered by hand or scanned into a computer , rounding error, or inherent uncertainty in the system being studied. Models that specifically attempt to handle cases such as these are sometimes known as errors in variables models.

When a substantial amount of noise in the independent variables is present, the total least squares technique which measures error using the distance between training points and the prediction plane, rather than the difference between the training point dependent variables and the predicted values for these variables may be more appropriate than ordinary least squares.

Another option is to employ least products regression. Although least squares regression is undoubtedly a useful and important technique, it has many defects, and is often not the best method to apply in real world situations. A great deal of subtlety is involved in finding the best solution to a given prediction problem, and it is important to be aware of all the things that can go wrong. Thanks for posting the link here on my blog. Down the road I expect to be talking about regression diagnostics. Thanks for posting this!

This is an excellent explanation of linear regression. As you mentioned, many people apply this technique blindly and your article points out many of the pitfalls of least squares regression. This is really good explanation of Linear regression and other related regression techniques available for the prediction of dependent variable.

Thanks for the very informative post. Can you please tell me your references? It helped me a lot!! This would be more effective if mentioned about real world scenarios and on-going projects of linear least regression!!! Thanks for sharing your expertise with us. After reading your essay however, I am still unclear about the limit of variables this method allows.


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An article I am learning to critique had 12 independent variables and 4 dependent variables. Is this too many for the Ordinary least-squares regression analyses? I appreciate your timely reply. Best Regards, jl.

Fixed Effects, Random Effects, and Total Least Squares

Hi jl. There is no general purpose simple rule about what is too many variables. If you have a dataset, and you want to figure out whether ordinary least squares is overfitting it i. If the performance is poor on the withheld data, you might try reducing the number of variables used and repeating the whole process, to see if that improves the error on the withheld data. If it does, that would be an indication that too many variables were being used in the initial training.

Nice article, provides Pros n Cons of quite a number of algorithms. The article sits nicely with those at intermediate levels in machine learning. You could though improve the readability by breaking these long paragraphs into shorter ones and also giving a title to each paragraph where you describe some method.

Nice article once again. Thank you, I have just been searching for information approximately this subject for a while and yours is the greatest I have found out till now.


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  • However, what concerning the conclusion? Are you posiyive in regards to the source? Thank you so much for posting this. Thank you so much for your post about the limitations of OLS regression. It is very useful for me to understand about the OLS. First of all I would like to thank you for this awesome post about the violations of clrm assumptions, it is very well explained. I did notice something, however, not sure if it is an actual mistake or just a misunderstanding on my side.

    fensterstudio.ru/components/hoqynyvec/hytum-como-espiar.php It was my understanding that the assumption of linearity is only with respect to the parameters, and not really to the regressor variables, which can take non-linear transformations as well, i. This is a great explanation of least squares, lots of simple explanation and not too much heavy maths. I have been using an algorithm called inverse least squares.

    Fixed effects, random effects, and total least squares

    Your email address will not be published. ClockBackward Essays. Skip to content. Home About. A Brief Introduction to Regression The basic framework for regression also known as multivariate regression, when we have multiple independent variables involved is the following.


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