# What is the importance of hat matrix, $H=X(X^\top X)^{-1} X^\top$, in linear regression?

What is the importance of hat matrix, $H=X(X^{\prime}X )^{-1}X^{\prime}$, in regression analysis?

Is it only for easier calculation?

• Also, could you please be more specific? Jul 20 '14 at 13:43
• @SteveS Actually i want to know why we need hat matrix? Jul 20 '14 at 13:53
• Are you asking why we need to have a special name/symbol (i.e. "hat matrix", "H") for the matrix or are you asking more about the importance of the matrix product on the righthand side? Jul 20 '14 at 14:43

In the study of linear regression, the basic starting point is the data generating process $\textbf{y= XB + u} \quad$ where $\textbf{u} \sim N(0,\sigma^2 \boldsymbol I)$ and $\textbf{X}$ deterministic. After minimizing the least squares criterion, one finds an estimator $\widehat {\textbf{B} }$ for $\textbf{B}$, i. e. $\widehat {\textbf{B}}= ( \textbf{X} ' \textbf{X})^{-1}\textbf{X} '\textbf{y}$. After plugging in the estimator in the initial formula, one gets $\widehat {\textbf{y}}=\textbf{X}\widehat {\textbf{B}}$ as a linear model of the data generating process. Now, one can substitute the estimator for $\widehat {\textbf{B}}$ and gets $\widehat {\textbf{y}}=\textbf{X}( \textbf{X} ' \textbf{X})^{-1}\textbf{X} '\textbf{y}.$

So, $\textbf{H} = \textbf{X}( \textbf{X} ' \textbf{X})^{-1}\textbf{X} '$ is actually a projection matrix. Imagine you take all variables in $\textbf{X}$. The variables are vectors and span a space. Hence, if you multiply $\textbf{H}$ by $\textbf{y}$, you project your observed values in $\textbf{y}$ onto the space that is spanned by the variables in $\textbf{X}$. It gives one the estimates for $\textbf{y}$ and that is the reason why it is called hat matrix and why it has such an importance. After all, linear regression is nothing more than a projection and with the projection matrix we cannot only calculate the estimates for $\textbf{y}$ but also for $\textbf{u}$ and can for example check whether it is really normally distributed.

I found this nice picture on the internet and it visualizes this projection. Please note, $\beta$ is used instead of $\textbf{B}$. Moreover, the picture emphasizes the vector of the error terms is orthogonal to the projection and hence not correlated with the estimates for $\textbf{y}$ The hat matrix is very useful for a few reasons:

1. Instead of having $\widehat{y}=Z\widehat{\beta}$, we get that $\widehat{y}=Py$ where $P$ is the hat matrix. This gives us that $\widehat{y}$ is a linear mapping of the observed values.
2. From the hat matrix $P$, it is easy to calculate the residuals $\widehat{\epsilon}$. We see that $\widehat{\epsilon}=y-\widehat{y}=y-Py=\left(I_n-P\right)y$.

It's nothing more than finding the "closest" solution for Ax = b where b is not in the column space of A. We project b onto the column space, and solve for Ax(hat) = p where p is the projection of b onto column space.

• All this can be done without ever computing $H$.
– whuber
Nov 2 '15 at 14:53