Sharp analysis of EM for learning mixtures of pairwise differences
Proceedings of Thirty Sixth Conference on Learning Theory, PMLR 195:4384-4428, 2023.
We consider a symmetric mixture of linear regressions with random samples from the pairwise comparison design, which can be seen as a noisy version of a type of Euclidean distance geometry problem. We analyze the expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm locally around the ground truth and establish that the sequence converges linearly, providing an $\ell_\infty$-norm guarantee on the estimation error of the iterates. Furthermore, we show that the limit of the EM sequence achieves the sharp rate of estimation in the $\ell_2$-norm, matching the information-theoretically optimal constant. We also argue through simulation that convergence from a random initialization is much more delicate in this setting, and does not appear to occur in general. Our results show that the EM algorithm can exhibit several unique behaviors when the covariate distribution is suitably structured.