Collaborating Authors

A Characterization of Interventional Distributions in Semi-Markovian Causal Models

AAAI Conferences

We offer a complete characterization of the set of distributions that could be induced by local interventions on variables governed by a causal Bayesian network of unknown structure, in which some of the variables remain unmeasured. We show that such distributions are constrained by a simply formulated set of inequalities, from which bounds can be derived on causal effects that are not directly measured in randomized experiments.

Structural Causal Bandits: Where to Intervene?

Neural Information Processing Systems

We study the problem of identifying the best action in a sequential decision-making setting when the reward distributions of the arms exhibit a non-trivial dependence structure, which is governed by the underlying causal model of the domain where the agent is deployed. In this paper, we show that whenever the underlying causal model is not taken into account during the decision-making process, the standard strategies of simultaneously intervening on all variables or on all the subsets of the variables may, in general, lead to suboptimal policies, regardless of the number of interventions performed by the agent in the environment. We formally acknowledge this phenomenon and investigate structural properties implied by the underlying causal model, which lead to a complete characterization of the relationships between the arms' distributions. We leverage this characterization to build a new algorithm that takes as input a causal structure and finds a minimal, sound, and complete set of qualified arms that an agent should play to maximize its expected reward. We empirically demonstrate that the new strategy learns an optimal policy and leads to orders of magnitude faster convergence rates when compared with its causal-insensitive counterparts.

Learning and Testing Causal Models with Interventions

Neural Information Processing Systems

We consider testing and learning problems on causal Bayesian networks as defined by Pearl (Pearl, 2009). Given a causal Bayesian network M on a graph with n discrete variables and bounded in-degree and bounded confounded components'', we show that O(log n) interventions on an unknown causal Bayesian network X on the same graph, and O(n/epsilon 2) samples per intervention, suffice to efficiently distinguish whether X M or whether there exists some intervention under which X and M are farther than epsilon in total variation distance. We also obtain sample/time/intervention efficient algorithms for: (i) testing the identity of two unknown causal Bayesian networks on the same graph; and (ii) learning a causal Bayesian network on a given graph. Although our algorithms are non-adaptive, we show that adaptivity does not help in general: Omega(log n) interventions are necessary for testing the identity of two unknown causal Bayesian networks on the same graph, even adaptively. Our algorithms are enabled by a new subadditivity inequality for the squared Hellinger distance between two causal Bayesian networks.

A Primer on Causal Analysis Machine Learning

We provide a conceptual map to navigate causal analysis problems. Focusing on the case of discrete random variables, we consider the case of causal effect estimation from observational data. The presented approaches apply also to continuous variables, but the issue of estimation becomes more complex. We then introduce the four schools of thought for causal analysis

Structure Learning in Human Causal Induction

Neural Information Processing Systems

We use graphical models to explore the question of how people learn simple causalrelationships from data. The two leading psychological theories canboth be seen as estimating the parameters of a fixed graph. We argue that a complete account of causal induction should also consider how people learn the underlying causal graph structure, and we propose to model this inductive process as a Bayesian inference. Our argument is supported through the discussion of three data sets. 1 Introduction Causality plays a central role in human mental life. Our behavior depends upon our understanding ofthe causal structure of our environment, and we are remarkably good at inferring causation from mere observation. Constructing formal models of causal induction is currently a major focus of attention in computer science [7], psychology [3,6], and philosophy [5].This paper attempts to connect these literatures, by framing the debate between two major psychological theories in the computational language of graphical models. We show that existing theories equate human causal induction with maximum likelihood parameter estimationon a fixed graphical structure, and we argue that to fully account for human behavioral data, we must also postulate that people make Bayesian inferences about the underlying causal graph structure itself.