Understanding the Bethe Approximation: When and How can it go Wrong?


Belief propagation is a remarkably effective tool for inference, even when applied to networks with cycles. It may be viewed as a way to seek the minimum of the Bethe free energy, though with no convergence guarantee in general. A variational perspective shows that, compared to exact inference, this minimization employs two forms of approximation: (i) the true entropy is approximated by the Bethe entropy, and (ii) the minimization is performed over a relaxation of the marginal polytope termed the local polytope. Here we explore when and how the Bethe approximation can fail for binary pairwise models by examining each aspect of the approximation, deriving results both analytically and with new experimental methods.

Proceedings of the Thirtieth Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI-14)
David Sontag
David Sontag
Associate Professor of EECS

My research focuses on advancing machine learning and artificial intelligence, and using these to transform health care.