Random variable $X\sim N(0,1)$. Show that, $P(X\geq c) \leq e^{-ct+ \frac{t^{2}}{2}}$ for $c>0$ and for all $t$ in $R$.

I found that $P(X\geq c) = \Phi(-c)$ where $\Phi(x)=\int_{-\infty}^{x}\phi(u)du$ is the cdf of a standard normal variable.

I understand that the upper bound is in the form of mgf of normal distribution. How do I arrive at the above relation?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is $t$ in your inequality? Does it hold for all $t$? $\endgroup$
    – gunes
    Apr 11, 2019 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ For all t. I have edited the question. $\endgroup$
    – Harry
    Apr 11, 2019 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ did you understand my answer? $\endgroup$
    – gunes
    Apr 11, 2019 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ Title should be "upper bound on gaussian complimentary CDF (aka survival function)". Your question is about concentration (i.e upper-bounding the survival function), not anti-concentration (i.e upper-bounding the CDF). $\endgroup$
    – dohmatob
    Jan 27, 2020 at 12:14

2 Answers 2


For any random variable $X$ with moment generating function $M(t)$ existing in an open interval enclosing $t$, say $t\in(-h,h)$, it is true that $$P(X\ge c)\le e^{-ct}M(t)\quad,\,\text{ if }0<t<h$$

This is because

\begin{align} M(t)=\int_{\mathbb R} e^{tx}\,dF(x)&\ge \int_c^\infty e^{tx}\,dF(x) \\&\ge e^{ct}\int_c^\infty \, dF(x)&,\text{ for }0<t<h \\&=e^{ct}P(X\ge c) \end{align}

I am not sure if this holds for any $t\in\mathbb R$ in case $X$ is normal.


Interesting question. If it is for all $t$, then it must satisfy the worst case, i.e. $t=c$ which minimizes the exponent. Then the upper bound to prove becomes the following: $$P(X\geq c)\leq e^{-c^2/2}$$

From this post, we have the following inequality: $$P(X\geq c)\leq \frac{e^{-c^2/2}}{\sqrt{2\pi}c}$$ When $c\geq \frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}$, the denominator will be larger than $1$, and RHS will be automatically smaller than $e^{-c^2/2}$.

When $c\in [0,1/\sqrt{2\pi}]$, $e^{-c^2/2}\in [e^{-1/\pi},1]\approx[0.727,1]$. And, trivially, we know that $P(X\geq c)$ cannot be larger than $0.5$.


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