On the Optimality of Gaussian Kernel Based Nonparametric Tests against Smooth Alternatives

7 Sep 2019  ·  Tong Li, Ming Yuan ·

Nonparametric tests via kernel embedding of distributions have witnessed a great deal of practical successes in recent years. However, statistical properties of these tests are largely unknown beyond consistency against a fixed alternative. To fill in this void, we study here the asymptotic properties of goodness-of-fit, homogeneity and independence tests using Gaussian kernels, arguably the most popular and successful among such tests. Our results provide theoretical justifications for this common practice by showing that tests using Gaussian kernel with an appropriately chosen scaling parameter are minimax optimal against smooth alternatives in all three settings. In addition, our analysis also pinpoints the importance of choosing a diverging scaling parameter when using Gaussian kernels and suggests a data-driven choice of the scaling parameter that yields tests optimal, up to an iterated logarithmic factor, over a wide range of smooth alternatives. Numerical experiments are also presented to further demonstrate the practical merits of the methodology.

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