Elicitation of Subjective Probability Distributions

Elfadaly, Fadlalla Ghaly Hassan Mohamed (2012). Elicitation of Subjective Probability Distributions. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f119


To incorporate expert opinion into a Bayesian analysis, it must be quantified as a prior distribution through an elicitation process that asks the expert meaningful questions whose answers determine this distribution. The aim of this thesis is to fill some gaps in the available techniques for eliciting prior distributions for Generalized Linear Models (GLMs) and multinomial models.

A general method for quantifying opinion about GLMs was developed in Garthwaite and Al-Awadhi (2006). They model the relationship between each continuous predictor and the dependant variable as a piecewise-linear function with a regression coefficient at each of its dividing points. However, coefficients were assumed a priori independent if associated with different predictors. We relax this simplifying assumption and propose three new methods for eliciting positive-definite variance-covariance matrices of a multivariate normal prior distribution. In addition, we extend the method of Garthwaite and Dickey (1988) for eliciting an inverse chi-squared conjugate prior for the error variance in normal linear models. We also propose a novel method for eliciting a lognormal prior distribution for the scale parameter of a gamma GLM.

For multinomial models, novel methods are proposed that quantify expert opinion about a conjugate Dirichlet distribution and, additionally, about three more general and flexible prior distributions. First, an elicitation method is proposed for the generalized Dirichlet distribution that was introduced by Connor and Mosimann (1969). Second, a method is developed for eliciting the Gaussian copula as a multivariate distribution with marginal beta priors. Third, a further novel method is constructed that quantifies expert opinion about the most flexible alternate prior, the logistic normal distribution (Aitchison, 1986). This third method is extended to the case of multinomial models with explanatory covariates.

All proposed methods in this thesis are designed to be used with interactive Prior Elicitation Graphical Software (PEGS) that is freely available at http://statistics.open.ac.uk/elicitation.

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