Kullback-Leibler divergence – interpretation [duplicate]

I have a question about the Kullback-Leibler divergence.

Can someone explain why the “distance” between the blue density and the “red” density is smaller than the distance between the “green” curve and the “red” one?

Graph of three pdfs


Because I compute slightly different values of the KL divergence than reported here, let’s start with my attempt at reproducing the graphs of these PDFs:

PDFs for red, blue, and green

The KL distance from F to G is the expectation, under the probability law F, of the difference in logarithms of their PDFs. Let us therefore look closely at the log PDFs. The values near 0 matter a lot, so let’s examine them. The next figure plots the log PDFs in the region from x=0 to x=0.10:

Log PDFs in the interval from 0 to 0.10

Mathematica computes that KL(red, blue) = 0.574461 and KL(red, green) = 0.641924. In the graph it is clear that between 0 and 0.02, approximately, log(green) differs far more from log(red) than does log(blue). Moreover, in this range there is still substantially large probability density for red: its logarithm is greater than -1 (so the density is greater than about 1/2).

Take a look at the differences in logarithms. Now the blue curve is the difference log(red) – log(blue) and the green curve is log(red) – log(green). The KL divergences (w.r.t. red) are the expectations (according to the red pdf) of these functions.

Log PDFs for red:blue and red:green, over the interval from 0 to 0.04

(Note the change in horizontal scale, which now focuses more closely near 0.)

Very roughly, it looks like a typical vertical distance between these curves is around 10 over the interval from 0 to 0.02, while a typical value for the red pdf is about 1/2. Thus, this interval alone should add about 10 * 0.02 /2 = 0.1 to the KL divergences. This just about explains the difference of .067. Yes, it’s true that the blue logarithms are further away than the green logs for larger horizontal values, but the differences are not as extreme and the red PDF decays quickly.

In brief, extreme differences in the left tails of the blue and green distributions, for values between 0 and 0.02, explain why KL(red, green) exceeds KL(red, blue).

Incidentally, KL(blue, red) = 0.454776 and KL(green, red) = 0.254469.


Specify the distributions

red = GammaDistribution[1/.85, 1];
green = InverseGaussianDistribution[1, 1/3.];
blue = InverseGaussianDistribution[1, 1/5.];

Compute KL

(* Numeric integation between specified endpoints. *)
kl[pF_, qF_, l_, u_] := Module[{p, q},
   p[x_] := PDF[pF, x];
   q[x_] := PDF[qF, x];
   NIntegrate[p[x] (Log[p[x]] - Log[q[x]]), {x, l, u},  
    Method -> "LocalAdaptive"]
(* Integration over the entire domain. *)
kl[pF_, qF_] := Module[{p, q},
   p[x_] := PDF[pF, x];
   q[x_] := PDF[qF, x];
   Integrate[p[x] (Log[p[x]] - Log[q[x]]), {x, 0, \[Infinity]}]

kl[red, blue]
kl[red, green]
kl[blue, red, 0, \[Infinity]]
kl[green, red, 0, \[Infinity]]

Make the plots

plot[{f_, u_, r_}] := 
  Plot[Evaluate[f[#, x] & /@ {blue, red, green}], {x, 0, u}, 
   PlotStyle -> {{Thick, Darker[Blue]}, {Thick, Darker[Red]}, 
     {Thick, Darker[Green]}},
   PlotRange -> r,
   Exclusions -> {0},
   ImageSize -> 400
  plot[f], {f, {{PDF, 4, {Full, {0, 3}}}, {Log[PDF[##]] &, 
     0.1, {Full, Automatic}}}}
  ] // TableForm

Plot[{Log[PDF[red, x]] - Log[PDF[blue, x]], 
  Log[PDF[red, x]] - Log[PDF[green, x]]}, {x, 0, 0.04}, 
 PlotRange -> {Full, Automatic}, 
 PlotStyle -> {{Thick, Darker[Blue]}, {Thick, Darker[Green]}}]

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