A major inference task in Bayesian networks is explaining why some variables are observed in their particular states using a set of target variables. Existing methods for solving this problem often generate explanations that are either too simple (underspecified) or too complex (overspecified). In this paper, we introduce a method called Most Relevant Explanation (MRE) which finds a partial instantiation of the target variables that maximizes the generalized Bayes factor (GBF) as the best explanation for the given evidence. Our study shows that GBF has several theoretical properties that enable MRE to automatically identify the most relevant target variables in forming its explanation. In particular, conditional Bayes factor (CBF), defined as the GBF of a new explanation conditioned on an existing explanation, provides a soft measure on the degree of relevance of the variables in the new explanation in explaining the evidence given the existing explanation. As a result, MRE is able to automatically prune less relevant variables from its explanation. We also show that CBF is able to capture well the explaining-away phenomenon that is often represented in Bayesian networks. Moreover, we define two dominance relations between the candidate solutions and use the relations to generalize MRE to find a set of top explanations that is both diverse and representative. Case studies on several benchmark diagnostic Bayesian networks show that MRE is often able to find explanatory hypotheses that are not only precise but also concise.

Sawyer, Robert (North Carolina State University) | Rowe, Jonathan (North Carolina State University) | Azevedo, Roger (University of Central Florida) | Lester, James (North Carolina State University)

Modeling player engagement is a key challenge in games. However, the gameplay signatures of engaged players can be highly context-sensitive, varying based on where the game is used or what population of players is using it. Traditionally, models of player engagement are investigated in a particular context, and it is unclear how effectively these models generalize to other settings and populations. In this work, we investigate a Bayesian hierarchical linear model for multi-task learning to devise a model of player engagement from a pair of datasets that were gathered in two complementary contexts: a Classroom Study with middle school students and a Laboratory Study with undergraduate students. Both groups of players used similar versions of Crystal Island, an educational interactive narrative game for science learning. Results indicate that the Bayesian hierarchical model outperforms both pooled and context-specific models in cross-validation measures of predicting player motivation from in-game behaviors, particularly for the smaller Classroom Study group. Further, we find that the posterior distributions of model parameters indicate that the coefficient for a measure of gameplay performance significantly differs between groups. Drawing upon their capacity to share information across groups, hierarchical Bayesian methods provide an effective approach for modeling player engagement with data from similar, but different, contexts.

Dutta, Ritabrata, Mira, Antonietta, Onnela, Jukka-Pekka

Infectious diseases are studied to understand their spreading mechanisms, to evaluate control strategies and to predict the risk and course of future outbreaks. Because people only interact with a small number of individuals, and because the structure of these interactions matters for spreading processes, the pairwise relationships between individuals in a population can be usefully represented by a network. Although the underlying processes of transmission are different, the network approach can be used to study the spread of pathogens in a contact network or the spread of rumors in an online social network. We study simulated simple and complex epidemics on synthetic networks and on two empirical networks, a social / contact network in an Indian village and an online social network in the U.S. Our goal is to learn simultaneously about the spreading process parameters and the source node (first infected node) of the epidemic, given a fixed and known network structure, and observations about state of nodes at several points in time. Our inference scheme is based on approximate Bayesian computation (ABC), an inference technique for complex models with likelihood functions that are either expensive to evaluate or analytically intractable. ABC enables us to adopt a Bayesian approach to the problem despite the posterior distribution being very complex. Our method is agnostic about the topology of the network and the nature of the spreading process. It generally performs well and, somewhat counter-intuitively, the inference problem appears to be easier on more heterogeneous network topologies, which enhances its future applicability to real-world settings where few networks have homogeneous topologies.

Bayesian network is a popular modeling tool for uncertain domains that provides a compact representation of a joint probability distribution among a set of variables. Even though Bayesian networks significantly reduce the number of probabilities required to specify probabilistic relationships in the domain, the number of parameters required to quantify large models is still a serious bottleneck. Further reduction of parameters in a model is usually achieved by utilization of parametric probability distributions such as noisy-OR gates. In this paper report the results of an empirical study that suggests that under the assumption, that the underlying modeled distribution follows the noisy-OR assumptions, human experts provide parameters with better accuracy using elicitation of noisy-OR parameters than when eliciting conditional probability tables directly. It also seems that of the two alternative noisy-OR parameterizations due to Henrion and Díez the latter results in better elicitation accuracy.