On mixing rates for Bayesian CART presented by Jungeum Kim
Abstract: The success of Bayesian inference with MCMC depends critically on Markov chains rapidly reaching the posterior distribution. Despite the plentitude of inferential theory for posteriors in Bayesian non-parametrics, convergence properties of MCMC algorithms that simulate from such ideal inferential targets are not thoroughly understood. This work focuses on the Bayesian CART algorithm which forms a building block of Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART). We derive upper bounds on mixing times for typical posteriors under various proposal distributions. Exploiting the wavelet representation of trees, we provide sufficient conditions for Bayesian CART to mix well (polynomially) under certain hierarchical connectivity restrictions on the signal. We also derive a negative result showing that Bayesian CART (based on simple grow and prune steps) cannot reach deep isolated signals in faster than exponential mixing time. To remediate myopic tree exploration, we propose Twiggy Bayesian CART which attaches/detaches entire twigs (not just single nodes) in the proposal distribution. We show polynomial mixing of Twiggy Bayesian CART without assuming that the signal is connected on a tree. Going further, we show that informed variants achieve even faster mixing. A thorough simulation study highlights discrepancies between spike-and-slab priors and Bayesian CART under a variety of proposals.