# Strong Rules for Discarding Predictors in Lasso-type Problems

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1 Strong Rules for Discarding Predictors in Lasso-type Problems Robert Tibshirani, Jacob Bien, Jerome Friedman, Trevor Hastie, Noah Simon, Jonathan Taylor, and Ryan J. Tibshirani Departments of Statistics and Health Research and Policy, Stanford University, Stanford CA 9405, USA. Summary. We consider rules for discarding predictors in lasso regression and related problems, for computational efficiency. El Ghaoui et al. (00) propose SAFE rules, based on univariate inner products between each predictor and the outcome, that guarantee a coefficient will be zero in the solution vector. This provides a reduction in the number of variables that need to be entered into the optimization. In this paper, we propose strong rules that are very simple and yet screen out far more predictors than the SAFE rules. This great practical improvement comes at a price: the strong rules are not foolproof and can mistakenly discard active predictors, that is, ones that have nonzero coefficients in the solution. We therefore combine them with simple checks of the Karush-Kuhn-Tucker (KKT) conditions to ensure that the exact solution to the convex problem is delivered. Of course, any (approximate) screening method can be combined with the KKT conditions to ensure the exact solution; the strength of the strong rules lies in the fact that, in practice, they discard a very large number of the inactive predictors and almost never commit mistakes. We also derive conditions under which they are foolproof. Strong rules provide a substantial savings in computational time for a variety of statistical optimization problems.. Introduction Ourfocushereisstatisticalmodelsfitusingl penalization, startingwithpenalizedlinearregression. Consider a problem with N observations and p predictors. Let y denote the N-vector of outcomes, and X be the N p matrix of predictors, with ith row x i and jth column x j. For a set of indices A = {j,...j k }, we write X A to denote the N k submatrix X A = [x j,...x jk ], and we write b A = (b j,...b jk ) for a vector b. We assume that the predictors and outcome have been centered, so that we can omit an intercept term from the model. The lasso (Tibshirani (996), Chen et al. (998)) optimization problem is ˆβ = argmin β R p y Xβ +λ β, () where λ 0 is a tuning parameter. There has been considerable work in the past few years deriving fast algorithms for this problem, especially for large values of N and p. A main reason for using the lasso is that the l penalty tends to set some entries of ˆβ to exactly zero, and therefore it performs a kind of variable selection. Now suppose we knew, a priori to solving (), that a subset of the variables D {,...p} will be inactive at the solution, that is, they will have zero coefficients: ˆβD = 0. Then we could discard the If X does not have full column rank, which is necessarily the case when p > N, then there may not be a unique lasso solution; we don t pay special attention to this issue, and will write the solution when we really mean a solution.

3 Strong rules (b) The motivating arguments behind the sequential strong rule are quite simple and the same logic can be used to derive rules for l -penalized logistic regression, the graphical lasso, the group lasso, and others. The mistakes mentioned in (a) are so rarethat for a while a group ofus weretrying to provethat the sequential strong rule for the lasso was foolproof, while others were trying to find counterexamples (hence the large number of coauthors!). We finally did find some counterexamples of the sequential strong rule and one such counterexample is given in Section, along with some analysis of rule violations in the lasso case. Furthermore, despite the similarities in appearance of the basic strong rule () to the SAFE rule (), the arguments motivating the strong rules () and (4) are entirely different, and rely on a simple underlying principle. In Section 4 we derive analogous rules for the elastic net, and in Section 5 we derive rules for l -penalized logistic regression. We give a version for more general convex problems in Section 6, covering the graphical lasso and group lasso as examples. Lastly, we mention some related work. Wu et al. (009) study l penalized logistic regression and build a set D to discard based on the inner products between the outcome and each feature. As with the strong rules, their construction does not guarantee that the variables in D actually have zero coefficients in the solution, and so after fitting on X D c, the authors check the KKT optimality conditions for violations. In the case of violations, they weaken their set D, and repeat this process. Also, Fan & Lv (008)study the screeningof variablesbased on their inner products in the lassoand related problems, but not from an optimization point of view; their screening rules may again set coefficients to zero that are nonzero in the solution, however, the authors argue that under certain situations this can lead to better performance in terms of estimation risk.. Strong rules for the lasso.. Definitions and simulation studies As defined in the introduction, the basic strong rule for the lasso discards the jth predictor from the optimization problem if x T j y < λ λ max, (5) where λ max = max j x T j y is the smallest tuning parameter value such that ˆβ(λ max ) = 0. If we are interestedin the solution at many valuesλ... λ m, then havingcomputed the solution ˆβ(λ k ) at λ k, the sequential strong rule discards the jth predictor from the optimization problem at λ k if x T ( j y Xˆβ(λk ) ) < λ k λ k. (6) Here we take λ 0 = λ max. As ˆβ(λ max ) = 0, the basic strong rule (5) is a special case of the sequential rule (6). First of all, how does the basic strong rule compare to the basic SAFE rule ()? When the predictors are standardized (meaning that x i = for every i), it is easy to see that the basic strong bound is always larger than the basic SAFE bound, because y /λ max by the Cauchy- Schwartz inequality. When the predictors are not standardized, the ordering between the two bounds is not as clear, but in practice the basic strong rule still tends to discard more predictors unless the marginal variances of the predictors are wildly different (by factors of say 0 or more). Figure demonstrates the bounds for a simple example. More importantly, how do the rules perform in practice? Figures and attempt to answer this question by examining several simulated data sets. (A few real data sets are considered later in Section..) In Figure, we compare the performance of the basic SAFE rule, recursive SAFE

4 4 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani Basic strong bound ( y Xˆβ(λ) ) x T j Basic SAFE bound Basic SAFE bound Basic strong bound λ Fig.. Basic SAFE and basic strong bounds in a simple example with 0 predictors, ( labelled ) at the right. The plot shows the inner product of each predictor with the current residual, x T j y Xˆβ(λ), as a function of λ. The predictors that are in the model are those with maximal (absolute) inner product, equal to ±λ. The blue dotted vertical line is drawn at λ max; the black dotted vertical line is drawn at some value λ = λ at which we want to discard predictors. The basic strong rule keeps only predictor number, while the basic SAFE rule keeps numbers 8 and as well. rule, basic strong rule, and sequential strong rule in discarding predictors for the lasso problem along a sequence of 00 tuning parameter values, equally spaced on the log scale. The three panels correspond to different scenarios for the model matrix X; in each we plot the number of active predictors in the lasso solution on the x-axis, and the number of predictors left after filtering with the proposed rules (i.e. after discarding variables) on the y-axis. Shown are the basic SAFE rule, the recursive SAFE rule, the global strong rule and the sequential strong rule. The details of the data generation are given in the Figure caption. The sequential strong rule is remarkably effective. It is common practice to standardize the predictors before applying the lasso, so that the penalty term makes sense. This is what was done in the examples of Figure. But in some instances, one might not want to standardize the predictors, and so in Figure we investigate the performance of the rules in this case. In the left panel the population variance of each predictor is the same; in the right panel it varies by a factor of 50. We see that in the latter case the SAFE rules outperform the basic strong rule, but the sequential strong rule is still the clear winner. There were no violations of either of the strong rules in either panel. After seeing the performance of the sequential strong rule, it might seem like a good idea to combine the basic SAFE rule with the sequential strategy; this yields the sequential SAFE rule,

5 Strong rules 5 No correlation Positive correlation Negative correlation Number of predictors left after filtering SAFE Rec SAFE Basic strong 4 Seq strong Number of predictors left after filtering Number of predictors left after filtering Number of predictors in model Number of predictors in model Number of predictors in model Fig.. Lasso regression: results of different rules applied to three different scenarios. Shown are the number of predictors left after screening at each stage, plotted against the number of predictors in the model for a given value of λ. The value of λ is decreasing as we move from left to right. There are three scenarios with various values of N and p; in the first two panels the X matrix entries are i.i.d. standard Gaussian with pairwise correlation zero (left), and 0.5 (middle). In the right panel, one quarter of the pairs of features (chosen at random) had correlation In the plots, we are fitting along a path of 00 decreasing λ values equally spaced on the log-scale, A broken line with unit slope is added for reference. The proportion of variance explained by the model is shown along the top of the plot. There were no violations of either of the strong rules any of the three scenarios.

6 6 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani Equal population variance Unequal population variance Number of predictors left after filtering SAFE Rec SAFE Basic strong 4 Seq strong Number of predictors left after filtering Number of predictors in model Number of predictors in model Fig.. Lasso regression: results of different rules when the predictors are not standardized. The scenario in the left panel is the same as in the top left panel of Figure, except that the features are not standardized before fitting the lasso. In the data generation for the right panel, each feature is scaled by a random factor between and 50, and again, no standardization is done. which discards the jth predictor at the parameter value λ k if x T j ( y Xˆβ(λk ) ) < λk x j y Xˆβ(λ k ) λ k λ k λ k. (7) We believe that this rule is not foolproof, in the same way that the sequential strong rule is not foolproof, but have not yet found an example in which it fails. In addition, while (7) outperforms the basic and recursive SAFE rules, we have found that it is not nearly as effective as the sequential strong rule at discarding predictors and hence we do not consider it further... Motivation for the strong rules We now give some motivation for the sequential strong rule (6). The same motivation also applies to the basic strong rule (5), recalling that the basic rule corresponds to the special case λ 0 = λ max and ˆβ(λ max ) = 0. We start with the KKT conditions for the lasso problem (). These are x T j (y Xˆβ) = λγ j for j =,...p, (8) where γ j is the jth component of the subgradient of ˆβ : {+} if ˆβj > 0 γ j { } if ˆβj < 0 [,] if ˆβj = 0. (9)

7 Strong rules 7 Let c j (λ) = x T j (y Xˆβ(λ)), where we emphasize the dependence on λ. The key idea behind the strong rules is to assume that each c j (λ) is non-expansive in λ, that is, c j (λ) c j ( λ) λ λ for any λ, λ, and j =,...p. (0) This condition is equivalent to c j (λ) being differentiable almost everywhere, and satisfying c j (λ) wherever this derivative exists, for j =,...p. Hence we call (0) the unit slope bound. Using condition (0), if we have c j (λ k ) < λ k λ k, then c j (λ k ) c j (λ k ) c j (λ k ) + c j (λ k ) < (λ k λ k )+(λ k λ k ) = λ k, which implies that ˆβ j (λ k ) = 0 by the KKT conditions (8) and (9). But this is exactly the sequential strong rule (6), because c j (λ k ) = x T j (y Xˆβ(λ k )). In words: assuming that we can bound the amount that c j (λ) changes as we move from λ k to λ k, if the initial inner product c j (λ k ) is too small, then it cannot catch up in time. An illustration is given in Figure 4. ( y Xˆβ(λ) ) cj(λ) = x T j λ k λ k λ k λ k λ Fig. 4. Illustration of the slope bound (0) leading to the strong rules (5) and (6). The inner product c j is plotted in red as a function of λ, restricted to only one predictor for simplicity. The slope of c j between λ k and λ k is bounded in absolute value by (black line), so the most it can rise over this interval is λ k λ k. Therefore, if it starts below λ k (λ k λ k ) = λ k λ k, it cannot possibly reach the critical level by λ k.

8 8 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani The arguments up until this point do not really depend on the Gaussian lasso problem in any critical way, and similar arguments can be made to derive strong rules for l -penalized logistic regression and more general convex problems. But in the specific context of the lasso, the strong rules, and especially the unit slope assumption(0), can be explained more concretely. For simplicity, the arguments provided here assume that rank(x) = p, so that necessarily p N, although similar arguments can be used motivate the p > N case. Let A denote the set of active variables in the lasso solution, A = {j : ˆβ j 0}. Also let s = sign(ˆβ A ). Note that A,s are implicitly functions of λ. It turns out that we can express the lasso solution entirely in terms of A and s: ˆβ A (λ) = (X T AX A ) (X T Ay λs) () ˆβ A c(λ) = 0, () where we write X T A to mean (X A) T. On an interval of λ in which the active set doesn t change, the solution (), () is just linear in λ. Also, the solution (), () is continuous at all values of λ at which the active set does change. (For a reference, see Efron et al. (004).) Therefore the lasso solution is a continuous, piecewise linear function of λ, as is c j (λ) = x T j (y Xˆβ(λ)). The critical points, or changes in slope, occur whenever a variable enters or leaves the active set. Each c j (λ) is differentiable at all values of λ that are not critical points, which means it is differentiable almost everywhere (since the set of critical points is countable and hence has measure zero). Further, c j (λ) is just the slope of the piecewise linear path at λ, and hence (0) is really just a slope bound. By expanding (), () in the definition of c j (λ), it is not hard to see that the slope at λ is { c s j for j A j(λ) = x T j X A(X T A X A) () s for j / A. Therefore the slope condition c j (λ) is satisfied for all active variables j A. For inactive variables it can fail, but is unlikely to fail if the correlation between the variables in A and A c is small (thinking of standardized variables). From (), we can rewrite the slope bound (0) as X T A cx A(X T AX A ) sign(ˆβ A (λ)) for all λ. (4) In this form, the condition looks like the well-known irrepresentable condition, which we discuss in the next section... Connection to the irrepresentable condition A common condition appearing in work about model selection properties of lasso is the irrepresentable condition Zhao& Yu(006), Wainwright(006), Candes& Plan(009), which is closely related to the concept of mutual incoherence Fuchs (005), Tropp (006), Meinhausen & Buhlmann (006). If T is the set of variables present in the true (underlying) linear model, that is y = X T β T +z where β T R T is the true coefficient vectorand z R n is noise, then the irrepresentablecondition is that X T T cx T(X T TX T ) sign(β T) ǫ (5)

9 Strong rules 9 for some 0 < ǫ. The conditions (5) and (4) appear extremely similar, but a key difference between the two is that the former pertains to the true coefficients generating the data, while the latter pertains to those found by the lasso optimization problem. Because T is associated with the true model, we can put a probability distribution on it and a probability distribution on sign(βt ), and then show that with high probability, certain design matrices X satisfy (5). For example, Candes & Plan (009) show that if T is small, T is drawn from the uniform distribution on T -sized subsets of {,...p}, and each entry of sign(βt ) is equal to ± with equal probability, then designs X with max j k x T j x k = O(/logp) satisfy the irrepresentable condition (5) with very high probability. Unfortunately the same types of arguments cannot be applied directly to (4). A distribution on T and sign(βt ) induces a different distribution on A and sign(ˆβ A ), via the lasso optimization procedure. Even if the distributions of T and sign(βt ) are very simple, the distributions of A and sign(ˆβ A ) are likely to be complicated. Under the same assumptions as those described above, and an additional assumption that the signal-to-noise ratio is high, Candes & Plan (009) prove that for λ = logp the lasso solution satisfies A = T and sign(ˆβ A ) = sign(βt) with high probability. In this event, conditions (4) and (5) identical; therefore the work of Candes & Plan (009) proves that (4) also holds with high probability, under the stated assumptions and only when λ = logp. For our purposes, this is not incredibly useful because we want the slope bound to hold along the entire path, that is, for all λ. But still, it seems reasonable that confidence in (5) should translate to some amount of confidence in (4). And luckily for us, we do not need the slope bound (4) to hold exactly or with any specified level of probability, because we are using it as a computational tool and revert to checking the KKT conditions when it fails.. Violations of the strong rules.. A simple counterexample Here we demonstrate a counterexample of both the slope bound (0) and the sequential strong rule (6). We chose N = 50 and p = 0, with the entries of y and X drawn independently from a standard normal distribution. Then we centered y and the columns of X, and scaled the columns of X to have unit norm. As Figure 5 shows, for predictor j =, the slope of c j (λ) = x T j (y Xˆβ(λ)) is c j (λ) =.586 for all λ [λ,λ ], where λ = 0.044, λ = Moreover, if we were to use the solution at λ to eliminate predictors for the fit at λ, then we would eliminate the nd predictor based on the bound (6). But this is clearly a problem, because the nd predictor enters the model at λ. By continuity, we can choose λ in an interval around and λ in an interval around 0.059, and still break the sequential strong rule (6). We believe that a counterexample of the basic strong rule (5) can also be constructed, but we have not yet found one. Such an example is somewhat more difficult to construct because it would require that the average slope exceed from λ max to λ, rather than exceeding for short stretches of λ values... Numerical investigation of violations We generated Gaussian data with N = 00, and we let the number predictors p vary over the set {0, 50, 00, 500, 000}. The predictors had pairwise correlation 0.5. (With zero pairwise correlation, X T X would be orthogonal in the population and hence close to orthogonal in the sample, making

10 0 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani ( y Xˆβ(λ) ) cj(λ) = x T j λ λ 6 8 λ λ λ Fig. 5. Example of a violation of the slope bound (0), which breaks the sequential strong rule (6). The entries of y and X were generated as independent, standard normal random variables with N = 50 and p = 0. (Hence there is no underlying signal.) The lines with slopes ±λ are the envelopes of maximal inner products achieved by predictors in the model for eachλ. For clarity we only show a short stretch of the solution path. The blue dashed vertical line is drawn at λ, and we are considering the the solution at a new value λ < λ, the black dashed vertical line to its left. The dotted horizontal line is the bound (6). In the top right part of the plot, the inner product path for the predictor j = is drawn in red, and starts below the bound, but enters the model at λ. The slope of the red segment between λ and λ is A gray line of slope - is drawn beside the red segment for reference. The plot contains other examples of large slopes leading to rule violations, for example, around λ =

11 Strong rules it easier for the strong rules to hold see the next section. Therefore we chose pairwise correlation 0.5 in order to challenge the rules.) For each value of p, we chose one quarter variables uniformly at random, assigned them coefficient values equal to ± with equal probability, and added Gaussian noise to the true signal to generate y. Then we standardized y and the columns of X. We ran the R package glmnet version.5, which uses a path of 00 values of λ spanning the entire operating range, equally spaced on a log scale. This was used to determine the exact solutions, and then we recorded the number of violations of the sequential strong rule. Figure 6 shows the results averaged over 00 draws of the simulated data. We plot the percent variance explained on the x-axis (instead of λ, since the former is more meaningful), and the total number of violations (out of p predictors) the y-axis. We see that violations are quite rare, in general never averaging more than 0. erroneously discarded predictors! They are more common at the unregularized (small λ) end of the path and also tend to occur when p is fairly close to N. When p N (p = 500 or 000 here), there were no violations in any of 00 the simulated data sets. It is perhaps not surprisingly, then, that there were no violations in the examples shown in Figures and since there we had p N as well. Total number of violations p=0 p=50 p=00 4 p=500 5 p= Percent variance explained Fig. 6. Total number of violations (out of p predictors) of the sequential strong rule, for simulated data with N = 00 and different values of p. A sequence of models is fit, over 00 decreasing values of λ as we move from left to right. The features are drawn from a Gaussian distribution with pairwise correlation 0.5. The results are averages over 00 draws of the simulated data. In Table we applied the strong rules to three large datasets from the UCI machine learning repository, and a standard microarray dataset. As before, we applied glmnet along a path of about 00 values of λ values. There were no violations of the rule in any of the solution paths, and a large fraction of the predictors were successfully discarded. We investigate the computational savings that result from the strong rule in Section 7. When p = N, the model is able to produce a saturated fit, but only just. So for this scenario, the coefficient paths are somewhat erratic near the end of the path.

12 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani.. A sufficient condition for the slope bound Tibshirani & Taylor (0) prove a general result that can be used to give the following sufficient condition for the unit slope bound (0). Under this condition, both basic and sequential strong rules will never discard active predictors. Recall that an m m matrix A is diagonally dominant if A ii j i A ij for all i =,...m. Their result gives us the following: Theorem. Suppose that X has full column rank, that is, rank(x) = p. If (X T X) is diagonally dominant, (6) then the slope bound (0) holds, and hence the strong rules (5), (6) never produce violations. Proof. Tibshirani & Taylor (0) consider a problem ˆα = argmin α R n y α +λ Dα, (7) where D is a general m n penalty matrix. They derive the dual problem corresponding to (7), which has a dual solution û(λ) relating to the primal solution ˆα(λ) by ˆα(λ) = y D T û(λ). In the proof of their boundary lemma, Lemma, they show that if DD T is diagonally dominant, then the dual solution satisfies û j (λ) û j ( λ) λ λ for any λ, λ and j =,...m. (8) Now we show that when rank(x) = p, we can transform the lasso problem () into a problem of the form (7), and apply this lemma to get the desired result. First, we let α = Xβ and D = (X T X) X T. Then the lasso problem () can be solved by instead solving ˆα = argmin α R n y α +λ Dα subject to α col(x), (9) and taking ˆβ = (X T X) X T ˆα. For the original lasso problem (), we may assume without a loss of a generality that y col(x), because otherwise we can replace y by y, its projection onto col(x), and the loss term decouples: y Xβ = y y + y Xβ. Therefore we can drop the constraint α col(x) in (9), because by writing α = α +α for α col(x) and α col(x), we see that the loss term is minimized when α = 0 and the penalty term is unaffected by α, as Dα = (X T X) X T α = 0. Hence we have shown that the lasso problem () can be solved by solving (7) with D = (X T X) X T (and taking ˆβ = (X T X) X T ˆα). Now, the solution û(λ) of the dual problem corresponding to (7) satisfies and so ˆα(λ) = y X(X T X) û(λ), û(λ) = X T (y ˆα) = X T( y Xˆβ(λ) ). Thuswehaveexactlyû j (λ) = c j (λ)forj =,...p,andapplyingtheboundarylemma(8)completes the proof.

13 Strong rules We note a similarity between condition (6) and the positive cone condition used in Efron et al. (004). It is not difficult to see that the positive cone condition implies (6), and actually (6) is easier to verify because it doesn t require looking at every possible subset of columns. A simple model in which diagonal dominance holds is when the columns of X are orthonormal, because then X T X = I. But the diagonal dominance condition (6) certainly holds outside of the orthonormal design case. We finish this section by giving two such examples below. Equi-correlation model. Suppose that x j = for all j =,...p, and x T j x k = τ for all j k. Then the inverse of X T X is (X T X) = ( I τ ) τ +τ(p ) T where R p is the vector of all ones. This is diagonally dominant as along as τ 0. Haar basis model. Suppose that X = , (0) the lower triangular matrix of ones. Then (X T X) is diagonally dominant. This arises, for example, in the one-dimensional fused lasso where we solve argmin β R n N N (y i β i ) +λ β i β i. i= If we transform this problem to the parameters α =, α i = β i β i for i =,...N, then we get a lasso with design X as in (0). i= 4. Strong rules for the elastic net In the elastic net (Zou & Hastie (005)) we solve the problem ˆβ = argmin β R p y Xβ +λ β + λ β. () Letting we can rewrite () as ( ) ( X X = y, ỹ =, λ I 0) ˆβ = argmin β R p ỹ Xβ +λ β. () This is the original form of the naive elastic net proposed in Zou & Hastie (005), with additional the factors of /, just for notational convenience.

14 4 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani In this (standard lasso) form we can apply SAFE and strong rules to discard predictors. Notice x T j ỹ = xt j y, x j = x j +λ, ỹ = y. Hence the basic SAFE rule for discarding predictor j is x T j y < λ y x j +λ λ,max λ. λ,max Theglmnetpackageusestheparametrization(αλ,( α)λ)insteadof(λ,λ ). Withthisparametrization the basic SAFE rule has the form x T j y < αλ y x j +( α)λ λmax λ. () λ max The strong screening rules have a simple form under the glmnet parametrization for the elastic net. The basic strong rule for discarding predictor j is x T j y < α(λ λ max), (4) while the sequential strong rule is ( y Xˆβ(λk ) ) < α(λk λ k ). (5) x T j Figure7showsresultsfortheelasticnetwithstandardindependent GaussiandatawithN = 00, p = 000, for three values of α. There were no violations in any of these figures, that is, no predictor was discarded that had a nonzero coefficient at the actual solution. Again we see that the strong sequential rule performs extremely well, leaving only a small number of excess predictors at each stage. 5. Strong rules for logistic regression In this setting, we have a binary response y i {0,} and we assume the logistic model Pr(Y = x) = p(β 0,β) = /(+exp( β 0 x T β)). Letting p i = Pr(Y = x i ), we seek the coefficient vector ˆβ that minimizes the penalized (negative) log-likelihood, ˆβ 0, ˆβ = argmin β 0 R,β R p n ( yi logp i +( y i )log( p i ) ) +λ β. (6) i= (We typically do not penalize the intercept ˆβ 0.) El Ghaoui et al. (00) derive a SAFE rule for discarding predictors in this problem, based on the inner products between y and each predictor, and derived using similar arguments to those given in the Gaussian case. Hereweinvestigatetheanalogueofthe strongrules(5)and(6). TheKKTconditionsforproblem (6) are ( y p(ˆβ0, ˆβ) ) = λγ j for j =,...p, (7) x T j where γ j is the jth component of the subgradient of ˆβ, the same as in (9). Immediately we ( ) can see the similarity between (8) and (9). Now we define c j (λ) = x T j y p(ˆβ(λ)), and again we assume (0). This leads to the basic strong rule, which discards predictor j if x T j (y p) < λ λ max, (8)

15 Strong rules 5 α = 0. α = 0.5 α = Number of predictors left after filtering Number of predictors left after filtering SAFE Basic strong Seq strong Number of predictors left after filtering Number of predictors in model Number of predictors in model Number of predictors in model Fig. 7. Elastic net: results for the different screening rules (), (4), (5) for three different values of the mixing parameter α. In the plots, we are fitting along a path of decreasing λ values and the plots show the number of predictors left after screening at each stage. The proportion of variance explained by the model is shown along the top of the plot. There were no violations of any of the rules in the scenarios.

16 6 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani where p = ȳ and λ max = max i x T i (y p). It also leads to the sequential strong rule, which starts with the fit p(ˆβ 0 (λ k ), ˆβ(λ k )) at λ k, and discards predictor j if ( x T ( j y p(ˆβ 0 λk ), ˆβ(λ k ) )) < λ λ0. (9) Figure 8 shows the result of applying these rules to the newsgroup document classification problem (Lang 995). We used the training set cultured from these data by Koh et al. (007). The response is binary, and indicates a subclass of topics; the predictors are binary, and indicate the presence of particular tri-gram sequences. The predictor matrix has 0.05% nonzero values. Results are shown for the basic strong rule (8) and the sequential strong rule (9). We were unable to compute the basic SAFE rule for penalized logistic regression for this example, as this had a very long computation time, using our R language implementation. But in smaller examples it performed much like the basic SAFE rule in the Gaussian case. Again we see that the sequential strong rule (9), after computing the inner product of the residuals with all predictors at each stage, allows us to discard the vast majority of the predictors before fitting. There were no violations of either rule in this example. Newsgroup data Number of predictors left after filtering e+0 e+0 e+05 Basic strong Seq strong Number of predictors in model Fig. 8. Penalized logistic regression: results for newsgroup example, using the basic strong rule (8) the strong sequential strong rule (9). The broken curve is the - line, drawn on the log scale. Some approaches to penalized logistic regression such as the glmnet package use a weighted least squares iteration within a Newton step. For these algorithms, an alternative approach to discarding predictors would be to apply one of the Gaussian rules within the weighted least squares iteration. However we have found rule (9) to be more effective for glmnet. Finally, it is interesting to note a connection to the work of Wu et al. (009). These authors used x T j (y p) to screen predictors (SNPs) in genome-wide association studies, where the number of variables can exceed a million. Since they only anticipated models with say k 5 terms, they

17 Strong rules 7 selected a small multiple, say 0k, of SNPs and computed the lasso solution path to k terms. All the screened SNPs could then be checked for violations to verify that the solution found was global. 6. Strong rules for general problems Suppose that we are interested in a convex problem of the form ˆβ = argmin β f(β)+λ r c j β j pj. (0) Here f is a convex and differentiable function, and β = (β,β,...β r ) with each β j being a scalar or a vector. Also λ 0, and c j 0, p j for each j =,...r. The KKT conditions for problem (0) are j f(ˆβ) = λc j θ j for j =,...r, () where j f(ˆβ) = ( f(ˆβ)/ β j,... f(ˆβ)/ β jm ) if β j = (β j,...β jm ) (and if β j is a scalar, it is simply the jth partial derivative). Above, θ j is a subgradient of ˆβ j pj, and satisfies θ j qj, where /p j +/q j =. In other words, pj and qj are dual norms. Furthermore, θ j qj < implies that ˆβ j = 0. The strong rules can be derived by starting with the assumption that each j f(ˆβ(λ)) is a Lipschitz function of λ with respect to the l qj norm, that is, j f (ˆβ(λ) ) j f (ˆβ( λ) ) qj c j λ λ for any λ, λ and j =,...r. () Now the sequential strong rule can be derived just as before: suppose that we know the solution ˆβ(λ k ) at λ k, and are interested in discarding predictors for the optimization problem (0) at λ k < λ k. Observe that for each j, by the triangle inequality, j f (ˆβ(λk ) ) qj j f (ˆβ(λk ) ) qj + j f (ˆβ(λk ) ) j f (ˆβ(λk ) ) qj j= < j f (ˆβ(λk ) ) qj +c j (λ k λ k ), () the second line following from the assumption (). The sequential strong rule for discarding predictor j is therefore j f (ˆβ(λk ) ) qj < c j(λ k λ k ). (4) Why? Using (), the above inequality implies that j f (ˆβ(λk ) ) qj < c j (λ k λ k )+c j (λ k λ k ) = c j λ k, hence θ j qj <, and ˆβ j = 0. The basic strong rule follows from (4) by taking λ k = λ max = max i { i f(0) qi /c i }, the smallest value of the tuning parameter for which the solution is exactly zero. The rule (4) has many potential applications. For example, in the graphical lasso for sparse inverse covariance estimation (Friedman et al. 007), we observe N multivariate normal observations of dimension p, with mean 0 and covariance Σ. Let S be the observed empirical covariance matrix, and Θ = Σ. The problem is to minimize the penalized (negative) log-likelihood over nonnegative definite matrices Θ, ˆΘ = argmin logdetθ+tr(sθ)+λ Θ. (5) Θ 0

18 8 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani The penalty Θ sums the absolute values of the entries of Θ; we assume that the diagonal is not penalized. The KKT conditions for (5) can be written in matrix form as ˆΣ S = λγ, (6) where Γ ij is the (i,j)th component of the subgradient of ˆΘ. Depending on how we choose to make (6) fit into the general KKT conditions framework (), we can obtain different sequential strong rules from (4). For example, by treating everything elementwise we obtain the rule: S ij ˆΣ ij (λ k ) < λ k λ k, and this would be useful for an optimization method that operates elementwise. However, the graphical lasso algorithm proceeds in a blockwise fashion, optimizing over one whole row and column at a time. In this case, it is more effective to discard entire rows and columns at once. For a row i, let s, σ, and Γ denote S i, i, Σ i, i, and Γ i, i, respectively. Then the KKT conditions for one row can be written as σ s = λγ. (7) Now given two values λ k < λ k, and the solution ˆΣ(λ k ) at λ k, we have the sequential strong rule ˆσ (λ k ) s < λ k λ k. (8) If this rule is satisfied, then we discard the entire ith row and column of Θ, and hence set them to zero (but retain the ith diagonal element). Figure 9 shows an example with N = 00,p = 00, and standard independent Gaussian variates. No violations of the rule occurred. Number rows/cols left after filtering Basic strong Seq strong Number rows/cols in model Fig. 9. Graphical lasso: results for applying the basic and sequential strong rules (8). A broken line with unit slope is added for reference. After this article was completed, a better screening rule for the graphical lasso was discovered by both Witten et al. (0) and Mazumder & Hastie (0) independently. It has the simple form s < λ. (9)

19 Strong rules 9 In other words, we discard a row and column if all elements in that row and column are less than λ. This simple rule is safe: it never discards predictors erroneously. As a final example, the group lasso (Yuan & Lin 007) solves the optimization problem ˆβ = argmin β R p G y X g β g +λ G ng β g, (40) g= where X g is the N n g data matrix for the gth group. The KKT conditions for (40) are X T g ( y g= G ) X lˆβl = λ n g θ g for g =,,...G, l= where θ g is a subgradient of ˆβ g. Hence, given the solution ˆβ(λ k ) at λ k, and considering a tuning parameter value λ k < λ k, the sequential strong rule discards the gth group of coefficients entirely (that is, it sets ˆβ g (λ k ) = 0) if ( X T g y G X lˆβl (λ k )) < n g (λ k λ k ). l= 7. Implementation and numerical studies The strong sequential rule (4) can be used to provide potential speed improvements in convex optimization problems. Generically, given a solution at λ 0 and considering a new value λ < λ 0, let S(λ) be the indices of the predictors that survive the screening rule (4): we call this the strong set. Denote by E the eligible set of predictors. Then a useful strategy would be (a) Set E = S(λ). (b) Solve the problem at value λ using only the predictors in E. (c) Check the KKT conditions at this solution for all predictors. If there are no violations, we are done. Otherwise add the predictors that violate the KKT conditions to the set E, and repeat steps (b) and (c). Depending on how the optimization is done in step (b), this could be quite effective. First we consider a generalized gradient procedure for fitting the lasso. The basic iteration is ) ˆβ S tλ (ˆβ +t X T (y Xˆβ) where S tλ (x) = sgn(x)( x tλ) + is the soft-threshold operator, and t is a stepsize. When p > N, the strong rule reduces the Np operations per iteration to N. As an example, we applied the generalized gradient algorithm with approximate backtracking to the lasso with N = 00, over a path of 00 values of λ spanning the entire relevant range. The results in Table show the potential for a significant speedup. Next we consider the glmnet procedure, in which coordinate descent is used, with warm starts over a grid of decreasing values of λ. In addition, an ever-active set of predictors A(λ) is maintained, consisting of the indices of all predictors that have had a nonzero coefficient for some λ greater than the current value λ under consideration. The solution is first found for this set, then

20 0 Tibshirani and Bien and Friedman and Hastie and Simon and Taylor and Tibshirani Full scale Zoomed version Number of predictors Ever active Basic strong Number of predictors Number of predictors in model Number of predictors in model Fig. 0. Gaussian lasso setting, N = 00, p = 0, 000, pairwise correlation between features of 0.7. The first 50 predictors have positive, decreasing coefficients. Shown are the number of predictors left after applying the strong sequential rule (6) and the number that have ever been active (that is, had a nonzero coefficient in the solution) for values of λ larger than the current value. A broken line with unit slope is added for reference. The right-hand plot is a zoomed version of the left plot. the KKT conditions are checked for all predictors. If there are no violations, then we have the solution at λ; otherwise we add the violators into the active set and repeat. The existing glmnet strategy and the strategy outlined above are very similar, with one using the ever-active set A(λ) and the other using the strong set S(λ). Figure 0 shows the active and strong sets for an example. Although the strong rule greatly reduces the total number of predictors, it contains more predictors than the ever-active set; accordingly, the ever-active set incorrectly excludes predictors more often than the strong set. This effect is due to the high correlation between features and the fact that the signal variables have coefficients of the same sign. It also occurs with logistic regression with lower correlations, say 0.. In light of this, we find that using both A(λ) and S(λ) can be advantageous. For glmnet we adopt the following combined strategy: (a) Set E = A(λ). (b) Solve the problem at value λ using only the predictors in E. (c) Check the KKT conditions at this solution for all predictors in S(λ). If there are violations, add these predictors into E, and go back to step (a) using the current solution as a warm start. (d) Check the KKT conditions for all predictors. If there are no violations, we are done. Otherwise add these violators into A(λ), recompute S(λ) and go back to step (a) using the current solution as a warm start. Note that violations in step (c) are fairly common, while those in step (d) are rare. Hence the fact that the size of S(λ) is p makes this an effective strategy. We implemented this strategy and compare it to the standard glmnet algorithm in a variety of problems, shown in Tables and 4. We see that the new strategy offers a speedup factor of 0 or more in some cases, and never seems to slow the computations substantially.

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