Multiple mutual information (interaction information)


Updated 31 Mar 2016

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MUTUALINFO(X,P,idx) returns the multiple mutual information (interaction information) for the joint distribution provided by object matrix X and probability vector P. Each row of MxN matrix X is an N-dimensional object (N-tuple), and P is a length-M vector of the corresponding probabilities. Thus, the probability of object X(i,:) is P(i).

If X contains duplicate rows, these are assumed to be occurrences of the same object, and the corresponding probabilities are added. Matrix X need NOT be an exhaustive list of all possible objects -- objects/tuples that do not appear are assumed to have zero probability. The elements of probability vector P must sum to 1 +/- .00001.
The last argument (idx) will let you specify the partition on the matrix, i.e., idx = [1 1 1 2 2 3] means that columns 1-3 represent variable 1, columns 4-5 represent variable 2, and column 6 represents variable 3. (When idx contains only two *unique* values, it is the traditional mutual information which is being computed.) In a multi-column variable, each unique tuple is just a *label* for a constructed variable value. Recall that information-theoretic measures of dependence do not rely on actual variable *values*, but only on the *probabilities* of variable-value co-occurrence. For example, let object matrix X be given by

[1 3 0 1 0 0
2 1 0 2 1 0
2 2 2 2 0 2
2 1 1 1 0 1
2 1 1 2 1 2
3 3 1 0 0 2
1 1 2 1 0 0
0 2 2 0 0 0]

This object matrix contains 8 rows/objects and 6 columns/variables. (Some of these variables are binary, some ternary, and some quaternary.) We assume that a suitable (i.e., sum-to-one) vector P is provided. MUTUALINFO(X,P) with no index argument computes the interaction information among the 6 variables. MUTUALINFO(X,P,idx), where, for example argument idx is [1 1 1 2 2 3], computes the interaction information among 3 "constructed" variables; the first constructed variable being defined as the union of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd original variables, the second constructed variable being defined as the union of the 4th and 5th original variables, and the third constructed variable being defined as the 6th original variable. Thus, with idx given by [1 1 1 2 2 3], the interaction information computed is the same as for the following object matrix, where original variables {1,2,3} have been recoded into a single variable, and original variables {4,5} have been recoded into a single variable.

[1 1 0
2 2 0
3 3 2
4 1 1
4 2 2
5 0 2
6 1 0
7 0 0]

Again, recall that the actual variable values do not matter here, and we end up with three constructed variables, the first having cardinality 7, the second having cardinality 4, and the third being the original 6th variablewith cardinality 3. In case you are wondering, the usefulness of using the index vector input to "lump together" variables is to look at the mutual information or interaction information between *sets* of variables. For example, if you have one set of variables representing experimental inputs and another set of variables representing experimental outputs, you may wish to see what the mutual information is existing between the two *sets*. The index vector provides an easy way to do this, I think.

Multiple mutual informations can be positive (synergy) or negative (redundancy). Be aware.

This function is not efficient because it iterates over the power set of distinct variables, i.e., over the power set of V, where V = unique(idx). To compute interaction information for N variables requires computing (2^N)-1 entropies. I do not know whether there is a more efficient method. Also, I make no other claims for correctness of this function, although it has seemed to work for me. You would be wise to check it on a few test cases for which you know the answer. [To get a little speed-up, you can at least turnoff the error-checking. Just comment it out.]

REFERENCES: The classic source for multiple mutual information is (McGill, 1954). Aleks Jakulin and Ivan Bratko have done a lot of recentwork on the topic (e.g., Jakulin and Bratko, 2003), and their various papers provide a very comprehensive review of previous research. Another nice introduction with applications in physics is (Matsuda, 2000).

* <a href="matlab:web('','-browser')">Interaction information</a>. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
* McGill, W. J. (1954). Multivariate information transmission. Psychometrika, 19:97-116.
* Jakulin, A. and Bratko, I. (2003). <a href="matlab:web('','-browser')">Quantifying and visualizing attribute interactions</a>.
* Matsuda, H. (2000). Physical nature of higher-order mutual information: Intrinsic correlations and frustration. Physical Review E, 62:3096-3102.

See also TCORR.

Cite As

David Fass (2023). MUTUALINFO (, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved .

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