Message-Passing Algorithms: Reparameterizations and Splittings
The max-product algorithm, a local message-passing scheme that attempts to compute the most probable assignment (MAP) of a given probability distribution, has been successfully employed as a method of approximate inference for applications arising in coding theory, computer vision, and machine learning. However, the max-product algorithm is not guaranteed to converge, and if it does, it is not guaranteed to recover the MAP assignment. Alternative convergent message-passing schemes have been proposed to overcome these difficulties. This paper provides a systematic study of such message-passing algorithms that extends the known results by exhibiting new sufficient conditions for convergence to local and/or global optima, providing a combinatorial characterization of these optima based on graph covers, and describing a new convergent and correct message-passing algorithm whose derivation unifies many of the known convergent message-passing algorithms. While convergent and correct message-passing algorithms represent a step forward in the analysis of max-product style message-passing algorithms, the conditions needed to guarantee convergence to a global optimum can be too restrictive in both theory and practice. This limitation of convergent and correct message-passing schemes is characterized by graph covers and illustrated by example.