Bayesian error bars for regression
Regression problems are concerned with predicting the values of one or more continuous quantities, given the values of a number of input variables. For virtually every application of regression, however, it is also important to have an indication of the uncertainty in the predictions. Such uncertainties are expressed in terms of the error bars, which specify the standard deviation of the distribution of predictions about the mean. Accurate estimate of error bars is of practical importance especially when safety and reliability is an issue. The Bayesian view of regression leads naturally to two contributions to the error bars. The first arises from the intrinsic noise on the target data, while the second comes from the uncertainty in the values of the model parameters which manifests itself in the finite width of the posterior distribution over the space of these parameters. The Hessian matrix which involves the second derivatives of the error function with respect to the weights is needed for implementing the Bayesian formalism in general and estimating the error bars in particular. A study of different methods for evaluating this matrix is given with special emphasis on the outer product approximation method. The contribution of the uncertainty in model parameters to the error bars is a finite data size effect, which becomes negligible as the number of data points in the training set increases. A study of this contribution is given in relation to the distribution of data in input space. It is shown that the addition of data points to the training set can only reduce the local magnitude of the error bars or leave it unchanged. Using the asymptotic limit of an infinite data set, it is shown that the error bars have an approximate relation to the density of data in input space.