Characterization and Learning of Causal Graphs with Latent Variables from Soft Interventions

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

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Murat Kocaoglu, Amin Jaber, Karthikeyan Shanmugam, Elias Bareinboim


The challenge of learning the causal structure underlying a certain phenomenon is undertaken by connecting the set of conditional independences (CIs) readable from the observational data, on the one side, with the set of corresponding constraints implied over the graphical structure, on the other, which are tied through a graphical criterion known as d-separation (Pearl, 1988). In this paper, we investigate the more general scenario where multiple observational and experimental distributions are available. We start with the simple observation that the invariances given by CIs/d-separation are just one special type of a broader set of constraints, which follow from the careful comparison of the different distributions available. Remarkably, these new constraints are intrinsically connected with do-calculus (Pearl, 1995) in the context of soft-interventions. We introduce a novel notion of interventional equivalence class of causal graphs with latent variables based on these invariances, which associates each graphical structure with a set of interventional distributions that respect the do-calculus rules. Given a collection of distributions, two causal graphs are called interventionally equivalent if they are associated with the same family of interventional distributions, where the elements of the family are indistinguishable using the invariances obtained from a direct application of the calculus rules. We introduce a graphical representation that can be used to determine if two causal graphs are interventionally equivalent. We provide a formal graphical characterization of this equivalence. Finally, we extend the FCI algorithm, which was originally designed to operate based on CIs, to combine observational and interventional datasets, including new orientation rules particular to this setting.