Transfer Learning by Constructing Informative Priors

Many applications of supervised learning require good generalization from limited labeled data. In the Bayesian setting, we can try to achieve this goal by using an informative prior over the parameters, one that encodes useful domain knowledge. Focusing on logistic regression, we present an algorithm for automatically constructing a multivariate Gaussian prior with a full covariance matrix for a given supervised learning task. This prior relaxes a commonly used but overly simplistic independence assumption, and allows parameters to be dependent. The algorithm uses other “similar” learning problems to estimate the covariance of pairs of individual parameters. We then use a semidefinite program to combine these estimates and learn a good prior for the current learning task. We apply our methods to binary text classification, and demonstrate a 20 to 40% test error reduction over a commonly used prior. Authors: Rajat Raina, Andrew Y. Ng, Daphne Koller (2006)
AUTHORED BY
Rajat Raina
Andrew Y. Ng
Daphne Koller

Abstract

Many applications of supervised learning require good generalization from limited labeled data. In the Bayesian setting, we can try to achieve this goal by using an informative prior over the parameters, one that encodes useful domain knowledge. Focusing on logistic regression, we present an algorithm for automatically constructing a multivariate Gaussian prior with a full covariance matrix for a given supervised learning task. This prior relaxes a commonly used but overly simplistic independence assumption, and allows parameters to be dependent. The algorithm uses other “similar” learning problems to estimate the covariance of pairs of individual parameters. We then use a semidefinite program to combine these estimates and learn a good prior for the current learning task. We apply our methods to binary text classification, and demonstrate a 20 to 40% test error reduction over a commonly used prior.

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