Non-Parametric Jensen-Shannon Divergence

Abstract. Quantifying the difference between two distributions is a common problem in many machine learning and data mining tasks. What is also common in many tasks is that we only have empirical data. That is, we do not know the true distributions or their form, and before we can measure a divergence we first need to assume a distribution or perform estimation. In exploratory data analysis this is unsatisfactory, as we want to explore the data, not our expectations.

In this paper we study how to non-parametrically measure the divergence between two distributions. More in particular, we formalise the well-known Jensen-Shannon divergence using cumulative distribution functions. This allows us to calculate divergences directly and efficiently from data without the need for estimation. Moreover, empirical evaluation shows that cjs performs very well in detecting differences between distributions, outperforming the state of the art in both statistical power and efficiency for a wide range of tasks.

Related Publications

Nguyen, H-V & Vreeken, J Non-Parametric Jensen-Shannon Divergence. In: Proceedings of European Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases (ECML PKDD), pp 173-189, Springer, 2015.