Towards a Theoretical Analysis of PCA for Heteroscedastic Data


Principal Component Analysis (PCA) is a method for estimating a subspace given noisy samples. It is useful in a variety of problems ranging from dimensionality reduction to anomaly detection and the visualization of high dimensional data. PCA performs well in the presence of moderate noise and even with missing data, but is also sensitive to outliers. PCA is also known to have a phase transition when noise is independent and identically distributed; recovery of the subspace sharply declines at a threshold noise variance. Effective use of PCA requires a rigorous understanding of these behaviors. This paper provides a step towards an analysis of PCA for samples with heteroscedastic noise, that is, samples that have non-uniform noise variances and so are no longer identically distributed. In particular, we provide a simple asymptotic prediction of the recovery of a one-dimensional subspace from noisy heteroscedastic samples. The prediction enables: a) easy and efficient calculation of the asymptotic performance, and b) qualitative reasoning to understand how PCA is impacted by heteroscedasticity (such as outliers).

In 54th Annual Allerton Conference on Communication, Control, and Computing (Allerton)