Sparse recovery by thresholded non-negative least squares

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24 (NIPS 2011)

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Martin Slawski, Matthias Hein


Non-negative data are commonly encountered in numerous fields, making non-negative least squares regression (NNLS) a frequently used tool. At least relative to its simplicity, it often performs rather well in practice. Serious doubts about its usefulness arise for modern high-dimensional linear models. Even in this setting - unlike first intuition may suggest - we show that for a broad class of designs, NNLS is resistant to overfitting and works excellently for sparse recovery when combined with thresholding, experimentally even outperforming L1-regularization. Since NNLS also circumvents the delicate choice of a regularization parameter, our findings suggest that NNLS may be the method of choice.