Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 21 (NIPS 2008)
Patrik Hoyer, Dominik Janzing, Joris M. Mooij, Jonas Peters, Bernhard Schölkopf
The discovery of causal relationships between a set of observed variables is a fundamental problem in science. For continuous-valued data linear acyclic causal models are often used because these models are well understood and there are well-known methods to fit them to data. In reality, of course, many causal relationships are more or less nonlinear, raising some doubts as to the applicability and usefulness of purely linear methods. In this contribution we show that in fact the basic linear framework can be generalized to nonlinear models with additive noise. In this extended framework, nonlinearities in the data-generating process are in fact a blessing rather than a curse, as they typically provide information on the underlying causal system and allow more aspects of the true data-generating mechanisms to be identified. In addition to theoretical results we show simulations and some simple real data experiments illustrating the identification power provided by nonlinearities.