Testing k-Modal Distributions: Optimal Algorithms via Reductions

Constantinos Daskalakis, Ilias Diakonikolas, Rocco A. Servedio, Gregory Valiant, Paul Valiant

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

We give highly efficient algorithms, and almost matching lower bounds, for a range of basic statistical problems that involve testing and estimating the L_1 distance between two k-modal distributions p and q over the discrete domain {1,…,n} . More precisely, we consider the following four problems: given sample access to an unknown k-modal distribution p ,
Testing identity to a known or unknown distribution:
1. Determine whether p=q (for an explicitly given k-modal distribution q ) versus p is $\eps$-far from q ;
2. Determine whether p=q (where q is available via sample access) versus p is $\eps$-far from q ;
Estimating L 1 distance ("tolerant testing'') against a known or unknown distribution:
3. Approximate d TV (p,q) to within additive $\eps$ where q is an explicitly given k-modal distribution q ;
4. Approximate d TV (p,q) to within additive $\eps$ where q is available via sample access.
For each of these four problems we give sub-logarithmic sample algorithms, that we show are tight up to additive $\poly(k)$ and multiplicative $\polylog\log n+\polylog k$ factors. Thus our bounds significantly improve the previous results of \cite{BKR:04}, which were for testing identity of distributions (items (1) and (2) above) in the special cases k=0 (monotone distributions) and k=1 (unimodal distributions) and required O((logn) 3 ) samples.
As our main conceptual contribution, we introduce a new reduction-based approach for distribution-testing problems that lets us obtain all the above results in a unified way. Roughly speaking, this approach enables us to transform various distribution testing problems for k-modal distributions over {1,…,n} to the corresponding distribution testing problems for unrestricted distributions over a much smaller domain {1,…,ℓ} where ℓ=O(klogn).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherComputing Research Repository (CoRR)
Volumeabs/1112.5659
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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