Friday, 10 March 2017

A dilemma for judgment aggregation

Let's suppose that Adila and Benoit are both experts, and suppose that we are interested in gleaning from their opinions about a certain proposition $X$ and its negation $\overline{X}$ a judgment of our own about $X$ and $\overline{X}$. Adila has credence function $c_A$, while Benoit has credence function $c_B$. One standard way to derive our own credence function on the basis of this information is to take a linear pool or weighted average of Adila's and Benoit's credence functions. That is, we assign a weight to Adila ($\alpha$) and a weight to Benoit ($1-\alpha$) and we take the linear combination of their credence functions with these weights to be our credence function. So my credence in $X$ will be $\alpha c_A(X) + (1-\alpha) c_B(X)$, while my credence in $\overline{X}$ will be $\alpha c_A(\overline{X}) + (1-\alpha)c_B(\overline{X})$.

But now suppose that either Adila or Benoit or both are probabilistically incoherent -- that is, either $c_A(X) + c_A(\overline{X}) \neq 1$ or $c_B(X) + c_B(\overline{X}) \neq 1$ or both. Then, it may well be that the linear pool of their credence functions is also probabilistically incoherent. That is,

$(\alpha c_A(X) + (1-\alpha) c_B(X)) + (\alpha c_A(\overline{X}) + (1-\alpha)c_B(\overline{X})) = $

$\alpha (c_A(X)  + c_A(\overline{X})) + (1-\alpha)(c_B(X) + c_B(\overline{X})) \neq 1$

But, as an adherent of Probabilism, I want my credences to be probabilistically coherent. So, what should I do?

A natural suggestion is this: take the aggregated credences in $X$ and $\overline{X}$, and then take the closest pair of credences that are probabilistically coherent. Let's call that process the coherentization of the incoherent credences. Of course, to carry out this process, we need a measure of distance between any two credence functions. Luckily, that's easy to come by. Suppose you are an adherent of Probabilism because you are persuaded by the so-called accuracy dominance arguments for that norm. According to these arguments, we measure the accuracy of a credence function by measuring its proximity to the ideal credence function, which we take to be the credence function that assigns credence 1 to all truths and credence 0 to all falsehoods. That is, we generate a measure of the accuracy of a credence function from a measure of the distance between two credence functions. Let's call that distance measure $D$. In the accuracy-first literature, there are reasons for taking $D$ to be a so-called Bregman divergence. Given such a measure $D$, we might be tempted to say that, if Adila and/or Benoit are incoherent and our linear pool of their credences is incoherent, we should not adopt that linear pool as our credence function, since it violates Probabilism, but rather we should find the nearest coherent credence function to the incoherent linear pool, relative to $D$, and adopt that. That is, we should adopt credence function $c$ such that $D(c, \alpha c_A + (1-\alpha)c_B)$ is minimal. So, we should first take the linear pool of Adila's and Benoit's credences; and then we should make them coherent.

But this raises the question: why not first make Adila's and Benoit's credences coherent, and then take the linear pool of the resulting credence functions? Do these two procedures give the same result? That is, in the jargon of algebra, does linear pooling commute with our procedure for making incoherent credences coherent? Does linear pooling commute with coherentization? If so, there is no problem. But if not, our judgment aggregation method faces a dilemma: in which order should the procedures be performed: aggregate, then make coherent; or make coherent, then aggregate.

It turns out that whether or not the two commute depends on the distance measure in question. First, suppose we use the so-called squared Euclidean distance measure. That is, for two credence functions $c$, $c'$ defined on a set of propositions $X_1$, $\ldots$, $X_n$,$$SED(c, c') = \sum^n_{i=1} (c(X_i) - c'(X_i))^2$$ In particular, if $c$, $c'$ are defined on $X$, $\overline{X}$, then the distance from $c$ to $c'$ is $$(c(X) -c'(X))^2 + (c(\overline{X})-c'(\overline{X})^2$$ And note that this generates the quadratic scoring rule, which is strictly proper:
  • $\mathfrak{q}(1, x) = (1-x)^2$
  • $\mathfrak{q}(0, x) = x^2$
Then, in this case, linear pooling commutes with our procedure for making incoherent credences coherent. Given a credence function $c$, let $c^*$ be the closest coherent credence function to $c$ relative to $SED$. Then:

Theorem 1 For all $\alpha$, $c_A$, $c_B$, $$\alpha c^*_A + (1-\alpha)c^*_B = (\alpha c_A + (1-\alpha)c_B)^*$$

Second, suppose we use the generalized Kullback-Leibler divergence to measure the distance between credence functions. That is, for two credence functions $c$, $c'$ defined on a set of propositions $X_1$, $\ldots$, $X_n$,$$GKL(c, c') = \sum^n_{i=1} c(X_i) \mathrm{log}\frac{c(X_i)}{c'(X_i)} - \sum^n_{i=1} c(X_i) + \sum^n_{i=1} c'(X_i)$$ Thus, for $c$, $c'$ defined on $X$, $\overline{X}$, the distance from $c$ to $'$ is $$c(X)\mathrm{log}\frac{c(X)}{c'(X)} + c(\overline{X})\mathrm{log}\frac{c(\overline{X})}{c'(\overline{X})} - c(X) - c(\overline{X}) + c'(X) + c'(\overline{X})$$ And note that this generates the following scoring rule, which is strictly proper:
  • $\mathfrak{b}(1, x) = \mathrm{log}(\frac{1}{x}) - 1 + x$
  • $\mathfrak{b}(0, x) = x$
Then, in this case, linear pooling does not commute with our procedure for making incoherent credences coherent. Given a credence function $c$, let $c^+$ be the closest coherent credence function to $c$ relative to $GKL$. Then:

Theorem 2 For many $\alpha$, $c_A$, $c_B$, $$\alpha c^+_A + (1-\alpha)c^+_B \neq (\alpha c_A + (1-\alpha)c_B)^+$$

Proofs of Theorems 1 and 2. With the following two key facts in hand, the results are straightforward. If $c$ is defined on $X$, $\overline{X}$:
  • $c^*(X) = \frac{1}{2} + \frac{c(X)-c(\overline{X})}{2}$, $c^*(\overline{X}) = \frac{1}{2} - \frac{c(X) - c(\overline{X})}{2}$.
  • $c^+(X) = \frac{c(X)}{c(X) + c(\overline{X})}$, $c^+(\overline{X}) = \frac{c(\overline{X})}{c(X) + c(\overline{X})}$.

Thus, Theorem 1 tells us that, if you measure distance using SED, then no dilemma arises: you can aggregate and then make coherent, or you can make coherent and then aggregate -- they will have the same outcome. However, Theorem 2 tells us that, if you measure distance using GKL, then a dilemma does arise: aggregating and then making coherent gives a different outcome from making coherent and then aggregating.

Perhaps this is an argument against GKL and in favour of SED? You might think, of course, that the problem arises here only because SED is somehow naturally paired with linear pooling, while GKL might be naturally paired with some other method of aggregation such that that method of aggregation commutes with coherentization relative to GKL. That may be so. But bear in mind that there is a very general argument in favour of linear pooling that applies whichever distance measure you use: it says that if you do not aggregate a set of probabilistic credence functions using linear pooling then there is some linear pool that each of those credence functions expects to be more accurate than your aggregation. So I think this response won't work.

2 comments:

  1. If I know Adila and Benoit have incoherent credences, and I am an adherent of coherentism, isn't the most rational thing for me to do to ignore them completely? Then this issue never arises.

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  2. Thanks for this, Erik. I wonder about this. It seems like their incoherence is a flaw, but I'm not sure it's so bad a flaw that it should lead you to ignore them completely. For instance, they might be only very slightly incoherent -- credence 0.6 in X and 0.41 in not-X. It would seem unwise to completely disregard the information that their credences give me.

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