A general perspective on the Metropolis-Hastings kernel

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Since its inception the Metropolis-Hastings kernel has been applied in sophisticated ways to address ever more challenging and diverse sampling problems. Its success stems from the flexibility brought by the fact that its verification and sampling implementation rests on a local ``detailed balance'' condition, as opposed to a global condition in the form of a typically intractable integral equation. While checking the local condition is routine in the simplest scenarios, this proves much more difficult for complicated applications involving auxiliary structures and variables. Our aim is to develop a framework making establishing correctness of complex Markov chain Monte Carlo kernels a purely mechanical or algebraic exercise, while making communication of ideas simpler and unambiguous by allowing a stronger focus on essential features -- a choice of embedding distribution, an involution and occasionally an acceptance function -- rather than the induced, boilerplate structure of the kernels that often tends to obscure what is important. This framework can also be used to validate kernels that do not satisfy detailed balance, i.e. which are not reversible, but a modified version thereof.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2020


  • stat.CO
  • stat.ME

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