Distribution-Free Learning of Bayesian Network Structure in Continuous Domains

Dimitris Margaritis

In this paper we present a method for learning the structure of Bayesian networks (BNs) without making any assumptions on the probability distribution of the domain. This is mainly useful for continuous domains, where there is little guidance and many choices for the parametric distribution families to be used for the local conditional probabilities of the Bayesian network, and only a few have been examined analytically. We therefore focus on BN structure learning in continuous domains. We address the problem by developing a conditional independence test for continuous variables, which can be readily used by any existing independence-based BN structure learning algorithm. Our test is non-parametric, making no assumptions on the distribution of the domain. We also provide an effective and computationally efficient method for calculating it from data. We demonstrate the learning of the structure of graphical models in continuous domains from real-world data, to our knowledge for the first time using independence-based methods and without distributional assumptions. We also experimentally show that our test compares favorably with existing statistical approaches which use prediscretization, and verify desirable properties such as statistical consistency.

Content Area: 12. Machine Learning

Subjects: 12. Machine Learning and Discovery

Submitted: May 6, 2005


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