Causal Analysis in Theory and Practice

June 28, 2000

On causality and decision trees

Filed under: Decision Trees,General — moderator @ 12:00 am

From Dennis Lindley:

If your assumption, that controlling X at x is equivalent to removing the function for X and putting X=x elsewhere, is applicable, then it makes sense because, from my last paragraph, we need past information to select the correct function. What I do not understand at the moment is the relevance of this to decision trees. At a decision node, one conditions on the quantities known at the time of the decision. At a random node, one includes all relevant uncertain quantities under known conditions. Nothing more than the joint distributions (and utility considerations) are needed. For example, in the medical case, the confounding factor may either be known or not at the time the decision about treatment is made, and this determines the structure of the tree. Where causation may enter is when the data are used to assess the probabilities needed in the tree, and it is here that Novick and I used exchangeability. The Bayesian paradigm makes a sharp distinction between probability as belief and probability as frequency, calling the latter, chance. If I understand causation, it would be reasonable that our concept could conveniently be replaced by yours in this context.

April 24, 2000

Simpson’s paradox and decision trees

Filed under: Decision Trees,Simpson's Paradox — moderator @ 12:14 am

From Nimrod Megiddo (IBM Almaden)

I do not agree that "causality" is the key to resolving the paradox (but this is also a matter of definition) and that tools for looking at it did not exist twenty years ago. Coming from game theory, I think the issue is not difficult for people who like to draw decision trees with "decision" nodes distinguished from "chance" nodes.

I drew two such trees on the attached Word document which I think clarify the correct decision in different circumstances.
Click here for viewing the trees.

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