Fusion, propagation, and structuring in belief networks

Pearl, J.


Belief networks are directed acyclic graphs in which the nodes represent propositions (or variables), the arcs signify direct dependencies between the linked propositions, and the strengths of these dependencies are quantified by conditional probabilities. A network of this sort can be used to represent the generic knowledge of a domain expert, and it turns into a computational architecture if the links are used not merely for storing factual knowledge but also for directing and activating the data flow in the computations which manipulate this knowledge. The first part of the paper deals with the task of fusing and propagating the impacts of new information through the networks in such a way that, when equilibrium is reached, each proposition will be assigned a measure of belief consistent with the axioms of probability theory. It is shown that if the network is singly connected (e.g. The second part of the paper deals with the problem of finding a tree-structured representation for a collection of probabilistically coupled propositions using auxiliary (dummy) variables, colloquially called “hidden causes.”