The Perturbed Variation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25 (NIPS 2012)

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Maayan Harel, Shie Mannor


We introduce a new discrepancy score between two distributions that gives an indication on their \emph{similarity}. While much research has been done to determine if two samples come from exactly the same distribution, much less research considered the problem of determining if two finite samples come from similar distributions. The new score gives an intuitive interpretation of similarity; it optimally perturbs the distributions so that they best fit each other. The score is defined between distributions, and can be efficiently estimated from samples. We provide convergence bounds of the estimated score, and develop hypothesis testing procedures that test if two data sets come from similar distributions. The statistical power of this procedures is presented in simulations. We also compare the score's capacity to detect similarity with that of other known measures on real data.