The Annals of Statistics

The composite absolute penalties family for grouped and hierarchical variable selection

Peng Zhao, Guilherme Rocha, and Bin Yu

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Extracting useful information from high-dimensional data is an important focus of today’s statistical research and practice. Penalized loss function minimization has been shown to be effective for this task both theoretically and empirically. With the virtues of both regularization and sparsity, the L1-penalized squared error minimization method Lasso has been popular in regression models and beyond.

In this paper, we combine different norms including L1 to form an intelligent penalty in order to add side information to the fitting of a regression or classification model to obtain reasonable estimates. Specifically, we introduce the Composite Absolute Penalties (CAP) family, which allows given grouping and hierarchical relationships between the predictors to be expressed. CAP penalties are built by defining groups and combining the properties of norm penalties at the across-group and within-group levels. Grouped selection occurs for nonoverlapping groups. Hierarchical variable selection is reached by defining groups with particular overlapping patterns. We propose using the BLASSO and cross-validation to compute CAP estimates in general. For a subfamily of CAP estimates involving only the L1 and L norms, we introduce the iCAP algorithm to trace the entire regularization path for the grouped selection problem. Within this subfamily, unbiased estimates of the degrees of freedom (df) are derived so that the regularization parameter is selected without cross-validation. CAP is shown to improve on the predictive performance of the LASSO in a series of simulated experiments, including cases with pn and possibly mis-specified groupings. When the complexity of a model is properly calculated, iCAP is seen to be parsimonious in the experiments.

Article information

Ann. Statist. Volume 37, Number 6A (2009), 3468-3497.

First available in Project Euclid: 17 August 2009

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Zentralblatt MATH identifier

Primary: 62J07: Ridge regression; shrinkage estimators

Linear regression penalized regression variable selection coefficient paths grouped selection hierarchical models


Zhao, Peng; Rocha, Guilherme; Yu, Bin. The composite absolute penalties family for grouped and hierarchical variable selection. The Annals of Statistics 37 (2009), no. 6A, 3468--3497. doi:10.1214/07-AOS584.

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