I've seen this question here: How to increase variance in Gaussian Process regression?

And trying to complete the proof.

I'm looking at this book: Rasmussen & Williams 2006: Gaussian Processes for Machine Learning

Page 31 starts the relevant subject, and question 2.9.4 is just the question I want to ask:

Let $\operatorname{var}_{n}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right)$ be the predictive variance of a Gaussian process regression model at $x∗$ given a dataset of size $n$. The corresponding predictive variance using a dataset of only the first $n − 1$ training points is denoted $\operatorname{var}_{n-1}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right)$. Show that $\operatorname{var}_{n}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right) \leq \operatorname{var}_{n-1}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right)$, i.e. that the predictive variance at x∗ cannot increase as more training data is obtained. One way to approach this problem is to use the partitioned matrix equations given in section A.3 to decompose $\operatorname{var}_{n}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right)=k\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}, \mathbf{x}_{*}\right)-\mathbf{k}_{*}^{\top}\left(K+\sigma_{n}^{2} I\right)^{-1} \mathbf{k}_{*}$.

I want to represent $K_{n}+\sigma^{2} I_{n}$ as a function of $K_{n-1}$, and then to decompose $K_{n}+\sigma^{2} I_{n}$ by the following lemma from the book : (A.11 page 219)
Let the invertible $n \times n$ matrix $A$ and its inverse $A^{-1}$ be partitioned into $$ {A=\left( \begin{array}{cc}{P} & {Q} \\ {R} & {S}\end{array}\right), \quad A^{-1}=\left( \begin{array}{cc}{\tilde{P}} & {\tilde{Q}} \\ {\tilde{R}} & {\tilde{S}}\end{array}\right)} $$

where $P$ and $\tilde{P}$ are $n1 \times n1$ matrices and S and $\tilde{S}$ are $n2 \times n2$ matrices with $n = n1 + n2$.
The submatrices of $A^{-1}$ are given in Press et al. [1992, p. 77] as: $$\tilde{P}=P^{-1}+P^{-1} Q M R P^{-1}$$ $$\tilde{Q}=-P^{-1} Q M$$ $$\tilde{R}=-M R P^{-1}$$ $$\tilde{S}=M$$, Where $M=\left(S-R P^{-1} Q\right)^{-1}$

But then I don't know how to reach $k_{*}^{\top}\left(K_{n}+\sigma^{2} I_{n}\right)^{-1} k_{*} \geq k_{n-1}\left(x^{*}\right)^{\top}\left(K_{n-1}+\sigma^{2} I_{n-1}\right)^{-1} k_{n-1}\left(x^{*}\right)$ in order to complete the proof.

It will finish the proof because of $\operatorname{var}_{n}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right) \leq \operatorname{var}_{n-1}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right)$ and the fact that $\operatorname{var}_{n}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right)=k\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}, \mathbf{x}_{*}\right)-\mathbf{k}_{*}^{\top}\left(K_{n}+\sigma^{2} I_{n}\right)^{-1} \mathbf{k}_{*}$...

How can follow the clue there? Thanks

  • $\begingroup$ just noting...this can only be true when the variance parameters are known, and not estimated from the data (ie you know the function $k(,)$ and the parameter $\sigma^2$). $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


Recall the expression for the posterior variance of a Gaussian Process: $\operatorname{var}_{n}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right)=k\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}, \mathbf{x}_{*}\right)-\mathbf{k}_{*}^{\top}\left(K_n+\sigma^{2} I_n\right)^{-1} \mathbf{k}_{*}$. We want to show that $\text{var}_{n-1}(f(x_*)) \geq \text{var}_n(f(x_*))$. The first term is the same for both $\text{var}_n$ and $\text{var}_{n-1}$, so we just need to break down the second term in a way such that we can compare between $\text{var}_n$ and $\text{var}_{n-1}$.

Following the hint to look at section A.3 in the book, we see that for the partitioned matrix $A$ and its inverse $A^{-1}$, \begin{align} A = \begin{pmatrix} P & Q \\ R & S \end{pmatrix}, \qquad A^{-1} = \begin{pmatrix} \tilde P & \tilde Q \\ \tilde R & \tilde S \end{pmatrix}, \end{align}

\begin{align} \tilde P & = P^{-1} + P^{-1}QMRP^{-1},\\ \tilde Q & = -P^{-1}QM,\\ \tilde R & = -MRP^{-1},\\ \tilde S & = M,\\ \text{where}\ M & = (S - RP^{-1}Q)^{-1}.\\ \end{align}

We can decompose the Gram matrix with added noise $K_n + \sigma^2I_n$ as follows: \begin{align} K_n + \sigma^2 I_n = \begin{pmatrix} K_{n-1} + \sigma^2 I_{n-1} & k_{n-1}(x')\\k_{n-1}(x')^\top & k(x',x') + \sigma^2 \end{pmatrix} \end{align} where $x'$ is the $n$th point sampled.

Writing out the decomposed inverse, we get

\begin{align} (K_n + \sigma^2 I_n)^{-1} = \begin{pmatrix}\kappa + \kappa k_{n-1}(x')Mk_{n-1}(x')^\top\kappa & -\kappa k_{n-1}(x')M \\ -Mk_{n-1}(x')^\top \kappa & M \end{pmatrix}, \end{align} with \begin{align} M & = (k(x', x') + \sigma^2 - k_{n-1}(x')^\top(K_{n-1} + \sigma^2I_{n-1})^{-1}k_{n-1}(x'))^{-1}, \\ \kappa & = (K_{n-1} + \sigma^2I_{n-1})^{-1} \end{align} Finally we can actually compute the term $k_*^\top(K_n + \sigma^2I_n)^{-1}k_*$ by multiplying through: \begin{align} k_*^\top(K_n + \sigma^2I_n)^{-1}k_* = & \begin{pmatrix}k_{n-1}(x^*)\\k'(x^*)\end{pmatrix}^\top\begin{pmatrix}\kappa + \kappa k_{n-1}(x')Mk_{n-1}(x')^\top\kappa & -\kappa k_{n-1}(x')M \\ -Mk_{n-1}(x')^\top\kappa & M \end{pmatrix}\begin{pmatrix}k_{n-1}(x^*)\\k'(x^*)\end{pmatrix}\\ & = \begin{pmatrix} k_{n-1}^\top(x^*)\kappa + k_{n-1}^\top(x^*)\kappa k_{n-1}(x')Mk_{n-1}(x')^\top\kappa - k'(x^*)Mk_{n-1}(x')^\top \kappa \\ -k_{n-1}^\top(x^*)\kappa k_{n-1}(x')M + k'(x^*)M \end{pmatrix} ^\top \begin{pmatrix}k_{n-1}(x^*)\\k'(x^*)\end{pmatrix} \end{align} where $\kappa = (K_{n-1} + \sigma^2I_{n-1})^{-1}$ and $k'(x^*) = k(x', x^*)$.

We end up with \begin{align} k_*^\top(K_n + \sigma^2I_n)^{-1}k_* & = k_{n-1}^\top(x^*)\kappa k_{n-1}(x^*) + k_{n-1}^\top(x^*)\kappa k_{n-1}(x')Mk_{n-1}(x')^\top\kappa k_{n-1}(x^*)\\ & - k'(x^*)Mk_{n-1}(x')^\top\kappa k_{n-1}(x^*) - k_{n-1}(x^*)^\top\kappa k_{n-1}(x')Mk'(x^*) + k'(x^*)Mk'(x^*). \end{align} Note that the first term is simply the relevant term from $\text{var}_{n-1}$, so we just need to show that the subsequent terms are non-negative in order to show that the term is larger for $n$ compared to $n-1$ (and so the variance is smaller). Note that $M$ is the reciprocal of the variance at $x'$ plus $\sigma^2$, so it's positive and we can factor it out. We are left with \begin{align} \alpha^2 - 2k'(x^*)\alpha + k'(x^*)^2, \end{align} where $\alpha = k_{n-1}^\top(x^*)\kappa k_{n-1}(x')$ (a scalar). So we have \begin{align} k_*^\top(K_n + \sigma^2I_n)^{-1}k_* & = k_{n-1}^\top(x^*)\kappa k_{n-1}(x^*) + (\alpha - k'(x^*))^2\\ & = k_{n-1}(x^*)^\top(K_{n-1} + \sigma^2I_{n-1})^{-1}k_{n-1}(x^*) + \tfrac{1}{M}(\alpha - k'(x^*))^2\\ & \geq k_{n-1}(x^*)^\top(K_{n-1} + \sigma^2I_{n-1})^{-1}k_{n-1}(x^*). \end{align} So the variance after $n$ points is smaller than the variance after $n-1$ points, with equality achieved when the quantity $\tfrac{1}{M}(k_{n-1}^\top(x^*)(K_{n-1} + \sigma^2I_{n-1})^{-1} k_{n-1}(x') - k(x^*, x'))$ is zero.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I don't understand the part of : "We can decompose the Gram matrix with added noise $Kn+\sigma^2 * I_{n}$ as follows:" Why does the decomposed matrix look like this? Why this relation is true for the $K_n$ vs $K_{n-1}$? $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2019 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ In addition, isn't there a mistake in this part: By that formula, $\operatorname{var}_{n}\left(f\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}\right)\right)=k\left(\mathbf{x}_{*}, \mathbf{x}_{*}\right)-\mathbf{k}_{*}^{\top}\left(K_n+\sigma^{2} I_n\right)^{-1} \mathbf{k}_{*}$ In order for this $\text{var}_{n-1}(f(x_*)) \geq \text{var}_n(f(x_*))$ to exists, the following condition must hold: $\begin{align} k_*^\top(K_n + \sigma^2I_n)^{-1}k_* & \ge k_{n-1}(x^*)^\top(K_{n-1} + \sigma^2I_{n-1})^{-1}k_{n-1}(x^*). \end{align}$ and in your last part, you wrote the opposite condition. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2019 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ On the second point, yep that's a bug, it should be greater than or equal in the last set of equations (since if A = B + C^2, A >= B). On the first point, the Gram matrix has components $K_{ij} = k(x_i, x_j)$. So the Gram matrix after $n$ points has the same $n-1 \times n-1$ submatrix, and the extra column is the vector $k(x_i, x')$ for all the existing points sampled, and the row is that vector transposed, with the $n,n$ component is $k(x', x')$. Is that clear? $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2019 at 20:34

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