Testing Edges by Truncations

We consider the problem of testing whether two variables should be adjacent (either due to a direct effect between them, or due to a hidden common cause) given an observational distribution, and a set of causal assumptions encoded as a causal diagram. In other words, given a set of edges in the diagram known to be true, we are interested in testing whether another edge ought to be in the diagram. In fully observable faithful models this problem can be easily solved with conditional independence tests. Latent variables make the problem significantly harder since they can imply certain non-adjacent variable pairs, namely those connected by so called inducing paths, are not independent conditioned on any set of variables. We characterizewhich variable pairs can be determined to be non-adjacent by a class of constraints due to dormant independence, that is conditional independence in identifiable interventional distributions. Furthermore, we show that particular operations on joint distributions, which we call truncations are sufficient for exhibiting these non-adjacencies.This suggests a causal discovery procedure taking advantage of these constraints in the latent variable case can restrict itself to truncations.

Ilya Shpitser, Thomas S. Richardson, James M. Robins