This question is basically about row/column notation of derivatives and some basic rules. However, I couldn't figure out where I'm wrong.

For multinomial logistic regression, I'm trying to get the following observed information given in Böhning's paper [1]: $$ -\nabla^2L=\begin{pmatrix} p_1(1-p_1)\mathbf{xx}^T & -p_1p_2\mathbf{xx}^T & \dots & -p_1p_k\mathbf{xx}^T \\ \vdots & p_2(1-p_2)\mathbf{xx}^T & & \vdots \\ -p_kp_1\mathbf{xx}^T & \dots & & p_k(1-p_k)\mathbf{xx}^T \end{pmatrix} $$

where $p_i=p(y_i=1|\mathbf{x})=\frac{\exp(w_i^T\mathbf{x})}{\sum_{j=1}^K\exp{w_j^T\mathbf{x}}}$ for $i=1,...,K$, $\mathbf{x}$ is a single observation (a column vector of size $d$), $\omega_i$ is the parameter vector of $i$th class (a column vector of size $d$). $y_i \in \lbrace 0, 1 \rbrace$, which is the class label.

I can write the log-likelihood (for a single observation) of as follows: $$ \mathcal{L}=\sum_{k=1}^K y_{k}\omega_k^T\mathbf{x}-\ln\sum_{j=1}^K\exp{(\omega_j^T\mathbf{x})} $$

According to Matrix Cookbook, $\frac{\partial \omega_k^T \mathbf{x}}{\partial \omega_k}=\mathbf{x}$. By using this, I wrote the following first and second derivatives:

$$ \frac{\partial \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_k}=\left( y_{k} -\frac{\exp(\omega_k^T\mathbf{x})}{\sum_{j=1}^K\exp{(\omega_j^T\mathbf{x})}} \right)\mathbf{x} \\ \frac{\partial \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_k \partial \omega_k}=-\left( \frac{\exp(\omega_k^T\mathbf{x})}{\sum_{j=1}^K\exp{(\omega_j^T\mathbf{x})}}-\frac{(\exp(\omega_k^T\mathbf{x}))^2}{(\sum_{j=1}^K\exp{(\omega_j^T\mathbf{x})})^2} \right)\mathbf{x} \mathbf{x} $$

So instead of $\mathbf{xx}^T$, I get $\mathbf{xx}$. How can I correct this?

In some sources like this one the second derivative is defined as $\frac{\partial^2\mathcal{L}}{\partial\omega_k\partial\omega_k^T}$. Is this the correct notation? (Even if it is, I still can't correct my derivatives.)

[1] D. Böhning, "Multinomial Logistic Regression Algorithm", Ann. Inst. Statist. Math, vol. 44, No. 1, 197-200, 1992.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Because dimensionality of $\mathbf{x}$ is not specified, assume it’s a $d$-dimensional column vector for sake of argument. Concerning your question and specifically 2nd derivatives, what operation do you have in mind when you write $\mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}$? $\endgroup$
    – microhaus
    May 20, 2021 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ @microhaus $\mathbf{xx}$ is meaningless, but I can't show why it should be $\mathbf{xx}^T$. Why the outer product but not inner product? Should I just say "Hessian should be a matrix of dimensions $dK \times dK$, so let me transpose the last vector."? $\endgroup$
    – groove
    May 20, 2021 at 5:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For the avoidance of doubt, please may you clarify what follows because you have used notation that departs from the paper. 1\. The dimensionality of $\omega_k$ and $y_k$. 2. Am I correct in understanding that you are specifying gradients (i.e. derivatives of a scalar function with respect to a vector), rather than derivatives with respect to a scalar? Because I think this is where the source of the misunderstanding lies. $\endgroup$
    – microhaus
    May 20, 2021 at 13:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you for clarifying and editing. In response, can you see why the notation you've chosen, as it stands, is problematic, to the extent, I suspect, of compounding confusion? Because you state that $\omega_k$ is a vector, but then simultaneously refer to each element of the Hessian as $\partial \mathcal{L} / \partial \omega_k \partial \omega_k$ suggesting that each $\omega_k$ is an element, not a vector. $\endgroup$
    – microhaus
    May 20, 2021 at 16:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @microhaus You're right, according to the paper, $p_i(1-p_i)\mathbf{xx}^T$ should be a matrix, so it can't be a single element of the Hessian. However, I still can't see why it is $\mathbf{xx}^T$. $\frac{\partial\exp(\omega_k^T\mathbf{x})}{\partial \omega_k}=\exp(\omega_k^T\mathbf{x})\mathbf{x}$, right? But when deriving the Hessian, the second $\mathbf{x}$ has a $T$ over it although the term we're taking the derivative of is the same thing. $\endgroup$
    – groove
    May 20, 2021 at 17:13

1 Answer 1


The source of the issue in my view comes from a confusion concerning dimensionality, and because the Hessian departs from the usual context in that there is sub-partitioning going on. Other than a mild bit of calculus, this is just routine linear algebra with some tricks like the Kronecker delta function and the Kronecker product to compress the notation.

I have no doubt there may be a quicker and cleaner solution to this using a suitable selection of recipes from the Matrix Cookbook, or Einstein notation. But I've generally found that unless it's immediately obvious which recipe you should be applying, then there is no harm in building the condensed abstractions presented piece-by-piece from the ground up, particularly when you are in doubt.

For this reason, I will derive the relevant partial derivatives, and show how these can be stacked into the data-structures (gradient and Hessian) whose expressions you are seeking to validate.

Notation and dimensionality.

$\mathbf{x} \in \mathbb{R}^D$ is an observation vector.

$\mathbf{y} \in \mathbb{R}^K$ is also a vector.

$\omega^{(k)} \in \mathbb{R}^D$ for $k = 1, \dots, K$ are parameter vectors., where

$$\omega^{(k)} = \begin{bmatrix} \omega_1^{(k)} \\ \vdots \\ \omega_D^{(k)} \end{bmatrix}$$

$\omega \in \mathbb{R}^{DK}$ is a $DK$-dimensional column vector, consisting of all of the column parameter vectors $\omega^{(1)}, \dots, \omega^{(K)}$ stacked vertically on top of one another. Where for each element $\omega_d^{(k)}$, the superscript index $k$ indexes the $k$th class, and the subscript index $d$ indexes the covariate element.

The log-likelihood $\mathcal{L}(\omega)$ is a scalar function, in that $\mathcal{L} : \mathbb{R}^{DK} \rightarrow \mathbb{R}$. For a single observation $\mathbf{y}$, the log-likelihood is

$$\mathcal{L}(\omega) = \left( \sum^K_{k=1} y_k {\omega^{(k)}}^T \mathbf{x} \right) - \ln \left(1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp( {\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x}) \right).$$

Computing the score vector/gradient $\nabla_{\omega} L(\omega)$.

Note that the gradient $\nabla_{\omega} L(\omega) \in \mathbb{R}^{DK}$ is a $DK$-dimensional column vector.

Each element is the partial derivative of $\mathcal{L}$ with respect to $w_d^{(k)}$. Using dummy indexes $c$ and $l$ to avoid confusion, we have that

\begin{align} \frac{\partial \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_c^{(l)}} &= \frac{\partial}{\partial w_c^{(l)}} \left\{ \left( \sum^K_{k=1} y_k {\omega^{(k)}}^T \mathbf{x} \right) - \ln \left[1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp( {\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x}) \right] \right\} \\ &= y_l \cdot \frac{\partial}{\partial w_c^{(l)}} {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x} - \frac{\exp( {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x})}{1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x})} \cdot \frac{\partial}{\partial w_c^{(l)}} {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x} \\ &= y_l x_c - \frac{\exp( {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x})}{1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x})} x_c \\ &= \left[y_l - \frac{\exp( {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x})}{1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x})} \right] x_c \\ &= (y_l - \hat{p}_l) x_c, \end{align}


$$\hat{p}_l = \frac{\exp( {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x})}{1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x})}.$$

Writing out the gradient, we have that:

$$\begin{align} \nabla_{\omega} \mathcal{L}(\omega) = \begin{bmatrix} (y_1 - p_1)x_1 \\ \vdots \\ (y_1 - p_1) x_D \\ (y_2 - p_2) x_1 \\ \vdots \\ (y_2 - p_2) x_D \\ \vdots \\ (y_K - p_K) x_1 \\ \vdots \\ (y_K - p_K) x_D \\ \end{bmatrix} = \begin{bmatrix} (\mathbf{y} - \hat{\mathbf{p}})_1 \mathbf{x} \\ (\mathbf{y} - \hat{\mathbf{p}})_2 \mathbf{x} \\ \vdots \\ (\mathbf{y} - \hat{\mathbf{p}})_K \mathbf{x} \\ \end{bmatrix} = (\mathbf{y} - \hat{\mathbf{p}}) \otimes \mathbf{x}. \end{align}$$

Where $(\mathbf{y} - \hat{\mathbf{p}}) \otimes \mathbf{x}$ is the Kronecker product of the "matrices" $(\mathbf{y} - \hat{\mathbf{p}}) \in \mathbb{R}^{K \times 1}$ and $\mathbf{x} \in \mathbb{R}^{D \times 1}$, resulting in a $DK$-dimensional column vector.

Computing the observed information matrix/negative Hessian $-\nabla^2 \mathcal{L}(\omega)$.

Because the gradient $\nabla_{\omega} L(\omega) \in \mathbb{R}^{DK}$, the Hessian $-\nabla^2 \mathcal{L}(\omega) \in \mathbb{R}^{DK \times DK}.$

Each element of the Hessian, which itself consists of $D^2K^2$ elements is given by

\begin{align} -\frac{\partial^2 \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_{c'}^{(l')} \partial \omega_c^{(l)}} &= -\frac{\partial}{\partial \omega_{c'}^{(l')}} \frac{\partial \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_c^{(l)}} \\ &= -\frac{\partial}{\partial \omega_{c'}^{(l')}} \left[y_l x_c - \frac{\exp( {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x})}{1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x})} x_c \right].\\ \end{align}

The left-hand term in the square brackets vanishes, and so the above simplifies to

$$-\frac{\partial^2 \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_{c'}^{(l')} \partial \omega_c^{(l)}} = \frac{\partial}{\partial \omega_{c'}^{(l')}} \left[\frac{\exp( {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x})}{1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x})} x_c \right].$$

For a function $f = g / h$, the quotient rule gives $f' = (g'h - gh') / h^2$, where $f'$, $g'$, and $h'$ represent partial derivatives.

Now in the case where $l' \neq l$, where $l'$ does not refer to a partial derivative, we have that the partial derivative $g'= 0$, giving

\begin{align} -\frac{\partial^2 \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_{c'}^{(l')} \partial \omega_c^{(l)}} &= \frac{-\exp({\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x}) x_c \cdot \exp({\omega^{(l')}}^T \mathbf{x}) x_{c'}}{\left[1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x}) \right]^2}. \end{align}

When $l' = l$, then we have that

\begin{align} -\frac{\partial^2 \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_{c'}^{(l')} \partial \omega_c^{(l)}} &= \frac{\exp({\omega^{(l)}} ^T \mathbf{x}) x_c x_{c'} \cdot [1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x}) ]- \exp({\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x})x_c \cdot \exp({\omega^{(l')}}^T \mathbf{x})x_{c'}}{\left[1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x}) \right]^2} \\ &= \left( \frac{\exp( {\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x})}{1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x})} - \frac{\exp({\omega^{(l)}}^T \mathbf{x}) \cdot \exp({\omega^{(l')}}^T \mathbf{x})}{\left[1 + \sum^K_{j=1} \exp({\omega^{(j)}}^T \mathbf{x}) \right]^2} \right) x_c x_{c'}. \\ \end{align}

The author compresses the cases where $l' \neq l$ and $l' = l$ using the Kronecker delta function, meaning that both cases above can be written generally as

$$-\frac{\partial^2 \mathcal{L}}{\partial \omega_{c'}^{(l')} \partial \omega_c^{(l)}} = (\delta(l, l') \hat{p}_l - \hat{p}_l \hat{p}_{l'}) x_c x_{c'}.$$

With a view to stacking these $D^2K^2$ elements into a $DK \times DK$ Hessian $- \nabla^2 \mathcal{L}$, note that the outer product $\mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T$ is a $D \times D$ matrix:

$$\mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T = \begin{bmatrix} x_1 \\ \vdots \\ x_D \\ \end{bmatrix} \begin{bmatrix} x_1 \cdots x_D \end{bmatrix} = \begin{bmatrix} x_1^2 & x_1 x_2 &\cdots &x_1 x_D \\ x_2 x_1 & x_2^2 &\cdots &x_2 x_D \\ \vdots & \vdots &\ddots & \vdots \\ x^D x_1 & x_D x_2 &\cdots &x_D^2 \\ \end{bmatrix}$$

And also note that if we cycle through $l = 1, \dots K$ and $l' = 1, \dots K$, storing each element $(\delta(l, l') \hat{p}_l - \hat{p}_l \hat{p}_{l'})$ into a $K \times K$ matrix, which we can refer to as $\Lambda_{\hat{\mathbf{p}}} - \hat{\mathbf{p}} \hat{\mathbf{p}}^T$, then:

$$\Lambda_{\hat{\mathbf{p}}} - \hat{\mathbf{p}} \hat{\mathbf{p}}^T = \begin{bmatrix} \hat{p}_1( 1 - \hat{p}_1) & -\hat{p}_1 \hat{p}_2 &\cdots &-\hat{p}_1 \hat{p}_K \\ -\hat{p}_2 \hat{p}_1 & \hat{p}_2 (1 - \hat{p}_2) &\cdots & -\hat{p}_2 \hat{p}_K \\ \vdots & \vdots &\ddots & \vdots \\ -\hat{p}_K \hat{p}_1 & -\hat{p}_K \hat{p}_2 &\cdots & \hat{p}_K (1 -\hat{p}_K) \\ \end{bmatrix}$$

We can now think of populating the $DK \times DK$ Hessian matrix one $D \times D$ sub-matrix at a time. Indexing a total of $K^2$ individual $D \times D$ sub-matrices with a co-ordinate $(i, j)$, where $i = 1, \dots, K$ and $j = 1, \cdots, K$, the $(i,j)$-th $D \times D$ submatrix is

$$(\Lambda_{\hat{\mathbf{p}}} - \hat{\mathbf{p}} \hat{\mathbf{p}}^T)_{ij} \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T.$$

Populating our Hessian with a total of $K^2$ submatrices, and using the definition of the Kronecker product to compress the notation we have that:

\begin{align} - \nabla^2 \mathcal{L} &= \begin{bmatrix} \hat{p}_1( 1 - \hat{p}_1) \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T & -\hat{p}_1 \hat{p}_2 \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T &\cdots &-\hat{p}_1 \hat{p}_K \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T \\ -\hat{p}_2 \hat{p}_1 \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T & \hat{p}_2 (1 - \hat{p}_2) \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T &\cdots & -\hat{p}_2 \hat{p}_K \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T \\ \vdots & \vdots &\ddots & \vdots \\ -\hat{p}_K \hat{p}_1 \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T & -\hat{p}_K \hat{p}_2 \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T &\cdots & \hat{p}_K (1 -\hat{p}_K) \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T \\ \end{bmatrix} = (\Lambda_{\hat{\mathbf{p}}} - \hat{\mathbf{p}} \hat{\mathbf{p}}^T) \otimes \mathbf{x} \mathbf{x}^T.\\ \end{align}

Where the final equality is a Kronecker product of the matrices $(\Lambda_{\hat{\mathbf{p}}} - \hat{\mathbf{p}} \hat{\mathbf{p}}^T) \in \mathbb{R}^{K \times K}$ and $\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}^T \in \mathbb{R}^{D \times D}.$


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