Triad Constraints for Learning Causal Structure of Latent Variables

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Ruichu Cai, Feng Xie, Clark Glymour, Zhifeng Hao, Kun Zhang


Learning causal structure from observational data has attracted much attention, and it is notoriously challenging to find the underlying structure in the presence of confounders (hidden direct common causes of two variables). In this paper, by properly leveraging the non-Gaussianity of the data, we propose to estimate the structure over latent variables with the so-called Triad constraints: we design a form of "pseudo-residual" from three variables, and show that when causal relations are linear and noise terms are non-Gaussian, the causal direction between the latent variables for the three observed variables is identifiable by checking a certain kind of independence relationship. In other words, the Triad constraints help us to locate latent confounders and determine the causal direction between them. This goes far beyond the Tetrad constraints and reveals more information about the underlying structure from non-Gaussian data. Finally, based on the Triad constraints, we develop a two-step algorithm to learn the causal structure corresponding to measurement models. Experimental results on both synthetic and real data demonstrate the effectiveness and reliability of our method.