Let $\theta \in R^{n}$. The Fisher Information Matrix is defined as:

$$I(\theta)_{i,j} = -E\left[\frac{\partial^{2} \log(f(X|\theta))}{\partial \theta_{i} \partial \theta_{j}}\bigg|\theta\right]$$

How can I prove the Fisher Information Matrix is positive semidefinite?

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Isn't it the expected value of an outer product of the score with itself? $\endgroup$
    – Neil G
    Feb 13, 2013 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ @NeilG Not necessarily. People can define Fisher's information as the expectation of the Hessian matrix of the log-likelihood function. Then, only under "certain regularization conditions", we have Fisher's information equal to the variance of the score vector (gradient of log-likelihood function). $\endgroup$
    – Tan
    Feb 27, 2022 at 19:58

2 Answers 2


Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher_information#Matrix_form

From the definition, we have

$$ I_{ij} = \mathrm{E}_\theta \left[ \left(\partial_i \log f_{X\mid\Theta}(X\mid\theta)\right) \left(\partial_j \log f_{X\mid\Theta}(X\mid\theta)\right)\right] \, , $$ for $i,j=1,\dots,k$, in which $\partial_i=\partial /\partial \theta_i$. Your expression for $I_{ij}$ follows from this one under regularity conditions.

For a nonnull vector $u = (u_1,\dots,u_k)^\top\in\mathbb{R}^n$, it follows from the linearity of the expectation that $$ \sum_{i,j=1}^k u_i I_{ij} u_j = \sum_{i,j=1}^k \left( u_i \mathrm{E}_\theta \left[ \left(\partial_i \log f_{X\mid\Theta}(X\mid\theta)\right) \left(\partial_j \log f_{X\mid\Theta}(X\mid\theta)\right)\right] u_j \right) \\ = \mathrm{E}_\theta \left[ \left(\sum_{i=1}^k u_i \partial_i \log f_{X\mid\Theta}(X\mid\theta)\right) \left(\sum_{j=1}^k u_j \partial_j \log f_{X\mid\Theta} (X\mid\theta)\right)\right] \\ = \mathrm{E}_\theta \left[ \left(\sum_{i=1}^k u_i \partial_i \log f_{X\mid\Theta}(X\mid\theta)\right)^2 \right] \geq 0 \, . $$

If this component wise notation is too ugly, note that the Fisher Information matrix $H=(I_{ij})$ can be written as $H = \mathrm{E}_\theta\left[S S^\top\right]$, in which the scores vector $S$ is defined as $$ S = \left( \partial_1 \log f_{X\mid\Theta}(X\mid\theta), \dots, \partial_k \log f_{X\mid\Theta}(X\mid\theta) \right)^\top \, . $$

Hence, we have the one-liner $$ u^\top H u = u^\top \mathrm{E}_\theta[S S^\top] u = \mathrm{E}_\theta[u^\top S S^\top u] = \mathrm{E}_\theta\left[|| S^\top u ||^2\right] \geq 0. $$

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ (+1) Good answer and welcome back, Zen. I was becoming concerned we might have lost you permanently given the length of your hiatus. That would have been a real shame! $\endgroup$
    – cardinal
    Feb 14, 2013 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ How about the quantum Fisher information, what would be the difference in the proof? $\endgroup$
    – wondering
    Nov 9, 2021 at 13:05

WARNING: not a general answer!

If $f(X|\theta)$ corresponds to a full-rank exponential family, then the negative Hessian of the log-likelihood is the covariance matrix of the sufficient statistic. Covariance matrices are always positive semi-definite. Since the Fisher information is a convex combination of positive semi-definite matrices, so it must also be positive semi-definite.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.