Having trouble recovering some model parameters when fitting the simulated data

Dear All stan user:

I am a Stan novice, and have trouble in recovering the model parameters. Specifically, when using my model (a class of mixture hierarchical model) to fit the simulation data, two estimated parameters (phi and gamma parameters) are way off from the true parameters, but other model parameters can successfully be recovered. I have spent a couple of weeks working on this with no success. Could you please give me some suggestions, I am very grateful.

Simulated data




K = 30  # number of items             
N = 500 # number of examinees

### Person parameters simulation
Cov <- matrix(c(1,-0.6,0,-0.6,1,0.25,0,0.25,0.25),3,3)
ture_phi <- ture_person[,1]                                     
true_theta <- ture_person[,2]                                  
ture_tua <- ture_person[,3]                                    

### Item parameters simulation

ture_gamma <- rnorm(K,2.25,1)
ture_slip <- runif(K,0,0.1)
ture_b <- rnorm(K,0,1)
true_a <- runif(K,1,2.5) 
ture_beta <- runif(K,-0.2,0.2)
ture_alpha <- 1/runif(K,1.5,2.5) 
ture_beta_c <- -1         
ture_alpha_c <- sqrt(0.1)  

### Simulating responses data and responses time 
logRT <- matrix(data=NA,nrow=N,ncol=K)
for(i in 1:N){
  for(j in 1:K){ 
      pDelta<- 1/(1+exp(-ture_phi[i]+ture_gamma[j])) 
      pCorre<- 1/(1+exp(-1.7*true_a[j]*(true_theta[i]-ture_b[j]))) # item responses model: 2PL model

          responses[i,j] = 1    #  responses
          responses[i,j] = 0}   #  responses
        log_norm.time <- rnorm(1,ture_beta[j]-ture_tua[i],ture_alpha[j]) # lognormal model for response times
        log_cheat.time <- rnorm(1,ture_beta_c,ture_alpha_c) 
        logRT[i,j] = (1-pDelta)*log_norm.time + pDelta*log_cheat.time  # logRT

y = as.vector(responses)
logRT = as.vector(logRT)
D = 3  
Ntot = K*N
ii = rep(1,K)%x%c(1:N)
jj = c(1:K)%x%rep(1,N)
data_list = list(D=D,N=N,K=K,Ntot=Ntot,jj=jj,ii=ii,y=y,logRT=logRT) 
fit<-stan(file = "H_ICP.stan", data=data_list,iter=5000,chains=3,
                 warmup = 2500,cores = 4) 

Stan code

  int<lower = 1> D;  // number of dimensions of person parameters
  int<lower = 1> N;  // number of examinees
  int<lower = 1> K;  // number of items
  int<lower = 1> Ntot; // number of data points
  int<lower = 1> jj[Ntot];  // item id
  int<lower = 1> ii[Ntot];  // person id
  int<lower = 0, upper = 1> y[Ntot];  // responses
  real logRT[Ntot];  // log response times 

  matrix[D,N] z_trait;  
  corr_matrix[D] cor_P;  
  vector<lower=0>[D-1] sigma_phi_tua; 
  vector[K] gamma;  
  vector<lower=0,upper=1>[K] slip;  
  vector<lower=0>[K] a;  
  vector[K] b; 
  vector<lower=0>[K] diff_beta; 
  vector<lower=0>[K] alpha; 
  real beta_c;  
  real<lower=0> alpha_c; 

transformed parameters{
  cov_matrix[D] var_P;  
  vector[D] sigma_P;
  matrix[D,D] L;
  matrix[N,D] PersPar; // PersPar[,1]=phi, PersPar[,2]=theta, PersPar[,3]=tua, 
  vector[K] beta;
  L = cholesky_decompose(var_P);
  PersPar = (L*z_trait)';
  for(j in 1:K) beta[j] = beta_c+diff_beta[j];

  // prior person parameter
  cor_P ~ lkj_corr(1);
  sigma_phi_tua ~ cauchy(0,2.5);
  // prior item parameter  
  gamma ~ normal(0,5);
  slip~ beta(1,10); 
  a ~ cauchy(0,2.5); 
  b ~ normal(0,5);
  diff_beta ~ normal(0,5);
  beta_c ~ normal(0,5);
  alpha ~ cauchy(0,2.5);
  alpha_c ~ cauchy(0,2.5);
  //  target distribution
  for (n in 1:Ntot) {
    real pDelta;
    real pCorre;
      pDelta = 1/(1+exp(-PersPar[ii[n],1]+gamma[jj[n]])); 
      pCorre = 1/(1+exp(-1.7*a[jj[n]]*(PersPar[ii[n],2]-b[jj[n]]))); 
        target += log_sum_exp(log1m(pDelta)+bernoulli_lpmf(y[n]|pCorre)+

Without going deeper into the model (sorry I can’t do it right now), phi and gamma appear as a sum, so maybe you are reasonably estimating this, but are unable to identify each individually. If other parameters are reasonably recovered you can check if this is the case by looking at the samples for this combination instead of individual parameters.

Looking at posterior predictive checks (the fit) and the traces for the sum of log likelihood or posterior will also give you a clue if the chain is doing what it’s supposed to: if a chain is converging (and parallel chains are mixing) it’s doing all it can do.

Generally, everything goes through the likelihood/posterior, there is (usually) no direct information about individual parameters, which instead are funneled through that function and what you get are parameter combinations that have a posterior compatible with the data. Sometimes you can reparameterize the model to get around that kind of issue, sometimes it’s not possible or useful, but maybe prior information on each parameters helps keep them from going all over the place.

This is not specific of Bayesian inference, no method can guarantee you will recover the correct parameters. The good thing about MCMC inference is you can visualize the trajectories of the parameters and find out a series of issues that may prevent you from getting the results you expect, while with other sort of black-box methods you only get your final set of parameters and essentially nothing else.

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Thanks for the pointers, I’m very sorry for the late reply.

The posterior predictive checks showed that the combination of phi and gamma cannot be recovered well.

This result indicated that other model parameters may not be recovered well, too. I suspect that these parameters with bad recovery may be those with small simulated values, such as slip, alpha, alpha_c, and beta. Next, I will try to provide stronger prior information on these parameters, praying that it will work.

I am not sure what the figure is showing, but try plotting the sum of both variables and seeing how it compares to the true value, used for the simulation. Another tip is to start with simpler version of the model with fewer parameters (if possible) and add parameters to see when issues start to arise.

“Recovering the parameters” is a somewhat subjective sentence too; it is almost impossible that the mean posterior will be exactly the true value, and how much that deviates from it doesn’t have an absolute cut off, so there will be error, and for complex models (even if not too complex) also bias due to lack of identifiability, which you may be facing.

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Thanks caesoma.

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