Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 28 (NIPS 2015)
Tian Gao, Qiang Ji
We focus on the discovery and identification of direct causes and effects of a target variable in a causal network. State-of-the-art algorithms generally need to find the global causal structures in the form of complete partial directed acyclic graphs in order to identify the direct causes and effects of a target variable. While these algorithms are effective, it is often unnecessary and wasteful to find the global structures when we are only interested in one target variable (such as class labels). We propose a new local causal discovery algorithm, called Causal Markov Blanket (CMB), to identify the direct causes and effects of a target variable based on Markov Blanket Discovery. CMB is designed to conduct causal discovery among multiple variables, but focuses only on finding causal relationships between a specific target variable and other variables. Under standard assumptions, we show both theoretically and experimentally that the proposed local causal discovery algorithm can obtain the comparable identification accuracy as global methods but significantly improve their efficiency, often by more than one order of magnitude.