Causal Discovery from Soft Interventions with Unknown Targets: Characterization and Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Amin Jaber, Murat Kocaoglu, Karthikeyan Shanmugam, Elias Bareinboim


One fundamental problem in the empirical sciences is of reconstructing the causal structure that underlies a phenomenon of interest through observation and experimentation. While there exists a plethora of methods capable of learning the equivalence class of causal structures that are compatible with observations, it is less well-understood how to systematically combine observations and experiments to reconstruct the underlying structure. In this paper, we investigate the task of structural learning in non-Markovian systems (i.e., when latent variables affect more than one observable) from a combination of observational and soft experimental data when the interventional targets are unknown. Using causal invariances found across the collection of observational and interventional distributions (not only conditional independences), we define a property called psi-Markov that connects these distributions to a pair consisting of (1) a causal graph D and (2) a set of interventional targets I. Building on this property, our main contributions are two-fold: First, we provide a graphical characterization that allows one to test whether two causal graphs with possibly different sets of interventional targets belong to the same psi-Markov equivalence class. Second, we develop an algorithm capable of harnessing the collection of data to learn the corresponding equivalence class. We then prove that this algorithm is sound and complete, in the sense that it is the most informative in the sample limit, i.e., it discovers as many tails and arrowheads as can be oriented within a psi-Markov equivalence class.