Generalization Error Bounds for Bayesian Mixture Algorithms

Ron Meir, Tong Zhang; 4(Oct):839-860, 2003.


Bayesian approaches to learning and estimation have played a significant role in the Statistics literature over many years. While they are often provably optimal in a frequentist setting, and lead to excellent performance in practical applications, there have not been many precise characterizations of their performance for finite sample sizes under general conditions. In this paper we consider the class of Bayesian mixture algorithms, where an estimator is formed by constructing a data-dependent mixture over some hypothesis space. Similarly to what is observed in practice, our results demonstrate that mixture approaches are particularly robust, and allow for the construction of highly complex estimators, while avoiding undesirable overfitting effects. Our results, while being data-dependent in nature, are insensitive to the underlying model assumptions, and apply whether or not these hold. At a technical level, the approach applies to unbounded functions, constrained only by certain moment conditions. Finally, the bounds derived can be directly applied to non-Bayesian mixture approaches such as Boosting and Bagging.