Dirichlet distribution


Story

The Dirichlet distribution is a generalization of the Beta distribution. It is a probability distribution describing probabilities of outcomes. Instead of describing probability of one of two outcomes of a Bernoulli trial, like the Beta distribution does, it describes probability of \(K\) outcomes. The Beta distribution is the special case of the Dirichlet distribution with \(K=2\).


Parameters

The parameters are \(\alpha_1\), \(\alpha_2\), …, \(\alpha_K\), all strictly positive, defined analogously to \(\alpha\) and \(\beta\) of the Beta distribution.


Support

The Dirichlet distribution has support on the interval [0, 1] such that \(\sum_{i=1}^K \theta_i = 1\).


Probability density function

\[\begin{align} f(\boldsymbol{\theta};\boldsymbol{\alpha}) = \frac{1}{B(\boldsymbol{\alpha})}\,\prod_{i=1}^K \theta_i^{\alpha_i-1}, \end{align}\]

where

\[\begin{align} B(\boldsymbol{\alpha}) = \frac{\prod_{i=1}^K\Gamma(\alpha_i)}{\Gamma\left(\sum_{i=1}^K \alpha_i\right)} \end{align}\]

is the multivariate Beta function.


Moments

Mean of \(\theta_i\): \(\left<\theta_i\right> = \displaystyle{\frac{\alpha_i}{\sum_{i=k}^K \alpha_k}}\)

Variance of \(\theta_i\): \(\displaystyle{\frac{\left<\theta_i\right>(1-\left<\theta_i\right>)}{1 + \sum_{k=1}^K \alpha_k}}\)

Covariance of \(\theta_i, \theta_j\) with \(j\ne i\): \(\displaystyle{-\frac{\left<\theta_i\right>\left<\theta_j\right>}{1 + \sum_{k=1}^K \alpha_k}}\)


Usage

The usage below assumes that alpha is a length \(K\) array.

Package

Syntax

NumPy

rg.dirichlet(alpha)

SciPy

scipy.stats.dirichlet(alpha)

Stan

dirichlet(alpha)



Notes

  • In some cases, we may wish to specify the distribution of an ordered Dirichlet distributed vector \(\theta\). That is, we want \(\theta \sim \text{Dirichlet}(\alpha_1, \alpha_2, \ldots, \alpha_L)\) with \(\theta_i < \theta_{i+1}\) for all \(i < K\). Because of the relationship of the Dirchlet distribution to a set of Gamma distributed random variables, we may specify this in Stan as follows.

data {
  int<lower=1> K;
}

parameters {
  vector<lower=0>[K] alpha;
  positive_ordered[K] lambda;
}

transformed parameters {
  simplex[K] theta = lambda / sum(lambda);
}

model {
  target += gamma_lpdf(lambda | alpha, 1);
}