Causal Inference for Event Pairs in Multivariate Point Processes

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Tian Gao, Dharmashankar Subramanian, Debarun Bhattacharjya, Xiao Shou, Nicholas Mattei, Kristin Bennett


Causal inference and discovery from observational data has been extensively studied across multiple fields. However, most prior work has focused on independent and identically distributed (i.i.d.) data. In this paper, we propose a formalization for causal inference between pairs of event variables in multivariate recurrent event streams by extending Rubin's framework for the average treatment effect (ATE) and propensity scores to multivariate point processes. Analogous to a joint probability distribution representing i.i.d. data, a multivariate point process represents data involving asynchronous and irregularly spaced occurrences of various types of events over a common timeline. We theoretically justify our point process causal framework and show how to obtain unbiased estimates of the proposed measure. We conduct an experimental investigation using synthetic and real-world event datasets, where our proposed causal inference framework is shown to exhibit superior performance against a set of baseline pairwise causal association scores.