Credible interval

In Bayesian statistics, a credible interval is an interval within which an unobserved parameter value falls with a particular subjective probability. It is an interval in the domain of a posterior probability distribution or a predictive distribution.[1] The generalisation to multivariate problems is the credible region. Credible intervals are analogous to confidence intervals in frequentist statistics,[2] although they differ on a philosophical basis;[3] Bayesian intervals treat their bounds as fixed and the estimated parameter as a random variable, whereas frequentist confidence intervals treat their bounds as random variables and the parameter as a fixed value. Also, Bayesian credible intervals use (and indeed, require) knowledge of the situation-specific prior distribution, while the frequentist confidence intervals do not.

For example, in an experiment that determines the distribution of possible values of the parameter , if the subjective probability that lies between 35 and 45 is 0.95, then is a 95% credible interval.

Choosing a credible interval

Credible intervals are not unique on a posterior distribution. Methods for defining a suitable credible interval include:

  • Choosing the narrowest interval, which for a unimodal distribution will involve choosing those values of highest probability density including the mode. This is sometimes called the highest posterior density interval.
  • Choosing the interval where the probability of being below the interval is as likely as being above it. This interval will include the median. This is sometimes called the equal-tailed interval.
  • Assuming that the mean exists, choosing the interval for which the mean is the central point.

It is possible to frame the choice of a credible interval within decision theory and, in that context, an optimal interval will always be a highest probability density set.[4]

Contrasts with confidence interval

A frequentist 95% confidence interval means that with a large number of repeated samples, 95% of such calculated confidence intervals would include the true value of the parameter. In frequentist terms, the parameter is fixed (cannot be considered to have a distribution of possible values) and the confidence interval is random (as it depends on the random sample).

Bayesian credible intervals can be quite different from frequentist confidence intervals for two reasons:

  • credible intervals incorporate problem-specific contextual information from the prior distribution whereas confidence intervals are based only on the data;
  • credible intervals and confidence intervals treat nuisance parameters in radically different ways.

For the case of a single parameter and data that can be summarised in a single sufficient statistic, it can be shown that the credible interval and the confidence interval will coincide if the unknown parameter is a location parameter (i.e. the forward probability function has the form ), with a prior that is a uniform flat distribution;[5] and also if the unknown parameter is a scale parameter (i.e. the forward probability function has the form ), with a Jeffreys' prior   [5] — the latter following because taking the logarithm of such a scale parameter turns it into a location parameter with a uniform distribution. But these are distinctly special (albeit important) cases; in general no such equivalence can be made.


  1. ^ Edwards, Ward, Lindman, Harold, Savage, Leonard J. (1963) "Bayesian statistical inference in psychological research". Psychological Review, 70, 193-242
  2. ^ Lee, P.M. (1997) Bayesian Statistics: An Introduction, Arnold. ISBN 0-340-67785-6
  3. ^ "Frequentism and Bayesianism".
  4. ^ O'Hagan, A. (1994) Kendall's Advanced Theory of Statistics, Vol 2B, Bayesian Inference, Section 2.51. Arnold, ISBN 0-340-52922-9
  5. ^ a b Jaynes, E. T. (1976). "Confidence Intervals vs Bayesian Intervals", in Foundations of Probability Theory, Statistical Inference, and Statistical Theories of Science, (W. L. Harper and C. A. Hooker, eds.), Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 175 et seq

Further reading

Data collection

Data collection is the process of gathering and measuring information on targeted variables in an established system, which then enables one to answer relevant questions and evaluate outcomes. Data collection is a component of research in all fields of study including physical and social sciences, humanities, and business. While methods vary by discipline, the emphasis on ensuring accurate and honest collection remains the same. The goal for all data collection is to capture quality evidence that allows analysis to lead to the formulation of convincing and credible answers to the questions that have been posed.

Frequentist inference

Frequentist inference is a type of statistical inference that draws conclusions from sample data by emphasizing the frequency or proportion of the data. An alternative name is frequentist statistics. This is the inference framework in which the well-established methodologies of statistical hypothesis testing and confidence intervals are based. Other than frequentistic inference, the main alternative approach to statistical inference is Bayesian inference, while another is fiducial inference.

While "Bayesian inference" is sometimes held to include the approach to inference leading to optimal decisions, a more restricted view is taken here for simplicity.

Grouped data

Grouped data are data formed by aggregating individual observations of a variable into groups, so that a frequency distribution of these groups serves as a convenient means of summarizing or analyzing the data.

Lilliefors test

In statistics, the Lilliefors test is a normality test based on the Kolmogorov–Smirnov test. It is used to test the null hypothesis that data come from a normally distributed population, when the null hypothesis does not specify which normal distribution; i.e., it does not specify the expected value and variance of the distribution. It is named after Hubert Lilliefors, professor of statistics at George Washington University.

Maximum a posteriori estimation

In Bayesian statistics, a maximum a posteriori probability (MAP) estimate is an estimate of an unknown quantity, that equals the mode of the posterior distribution. The MAP can be used to obtain a point estimate of an unobserved quantity on the basis of empirical data. It is closely related to the method of maximum likelihood (ML) estimation, but employs an augmented optimization objective which incorporates a prior distribution (that quantifies the additional information available through prior knowledge of a related event) over the quantity one wants to estimate. MAP estimation can therefore be seen as a regularization of ML estimation.

Methods engineering

Methods engineering is a subspecialty of industrial engineering and manufacturing engineering concerned with human integration in industrial production processes.

Posterior probability

In Bayesian statistics, the posterior probability of a random event or an uncertain proposition is the conditional probability that is assigned after the relevant evidence or background is taken into account. Similarly, the posterior probability distribution is the probability distribution of an unknown quantity, treated as a random variable, conditional on the evidence obtained from an experiment or survey. "Posterior", in this context, means after taking into account the relevant evidence related to the particular case being examined. For instance, there is a ("non-posterior") probability of a person finding buried treasure if they dig in a random spot, and a posterior probability of finding buried treasure if they dig in a spot where their metal detector rings.

Prediction interval

In statistical inference, specifically predictive inference, a prediction interval is an estimate of an interval in which a future observation will fall, with a certain probability, given what has already been observed. Prediction intervals are often used in regression analysis.

Prediction intervals are used in both frequentist statistics and Bayesian statistics: a prediction interval bears the same relationship to a future observation that a frequentist confidence interval or Bayesian credible interval bears to an unobservable population parameter: prediction intervals predict the distribution of individual future points, whereas confidence intervals and credible intervals of parameters predict the distribution of estimates of the true population mean or other quantity of interest that cannot be observed.

Predictive probability of success

Predictive probability of success (PPOS) is a statistics concept commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry including by health authorities to support decision making. In clinical trials, PPOS is the probability of observing a success in the future based on existing data. It is one type of probability of success. A Bayesian means by which the PPOS can be determined is through integrating the data's likelihood over possible future responses (posterior distribution).

Probability of success

The probability of success (POS) is a statistics concept commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry including by health authorities to support decision making.

The probability of success is a concept closely related to conditional power and predictive power. Conditional power is the probability of observing statistical significance given the observed data assuming the treatment effect parameter equals a specific value. Conditional power is often criticized for this assumption. If we know the exact value of the treatment effect, there is no need to do the experiment. To address this issue, we can consider conditional power in a Bayesian setting by considering the treatment effect parameter to be a random variable. Taking the expected value of the conditional power with respect to the posterior distribution of the parameter gives the predictive power. Predictive power can also be calculated in a frequentist setting. No matter how it is calculated, predictive power is a random variable since it is a conditional probability conditioned on randomly observed data. Both conditional power and predictive power use statistical significance as the success criterion. However, statistical significance is often not sufficient to define success. For example, a health authority often requires the magnitude of the treatment effect to be bigger than an effect which is merely statistically significant in order to support successful registration. In order to address this issue, we can extend conditional power and predictive power to the concept of probability of success. For probability of success, the success criterion is not restricted to statistical significance. It can be something else such as a clinical meaningful result.

Replication (statistics)

In engineering, science, and statistics, replication is the repetition of an experimental condition so that the variability associated with the phenomenon can be estimated. ASTM, in standard E1847, defines replication as "the repetition of the set of all the treatment combinations to be compared in an experiment. Each of the repetitions is called a replicate."

Replication is not the same as repeated measurements of the same item: they are dealt with differently in statistical experimental design and data analysis.

For proper sampling, a process or batch of products should be in reasonable statistical control; inherent random variation is present but variation due to assignable (special) causes is not. Evaluation or testing of a single item does not allow for item-to-item variation and may not represent the batch or process. Replication is needed to account for this variation among items and treatments.

Run chart

A run chart, also known as a run-sequence plot is a graph that displays observed data in a time sequence. Often, the data displayed represent some aspect of the output or performance of a manufacturing or other business process. It is therefore a form of line chart.

Shape parameter

In probability theory and statistics, a shape parameter is a kind of numerical parameter of a parametric family of probability distributions.Specifically, a shape parameter is any parameter of a probability distribution that is neither a location parameter nor a scale parameter (nor a function of either or both of these only, such as a rate parameter). Such a parameter must affect the shape of a distribution rather than simply shifting it (as a location parameter does) or stretching/shrinking it (as a scale parameter does).

Statistical graphics

Statistical graphics, also known as graphical techniques, are graphics in the field of statistics used to visualize quantitative data.

Statistical inference

Statistical inference is the process of using data analysis to deduce properties of an underlying probability distribution. Inferential statistical analysis infers properties of a population, for example by testing hypotheses and deriving estimates. It is assumed that the observed data set is sampled from a larger population.

Inferential statistics can be contrasted with descriptive statistics. Descriptive statistics is solely concerned with properties of the observed data, and it does not rest on the assumption that the data come from a larger population.

Statistical parameter

A statistical parameter or population parameter is a quantity that indexes a family of probability distributions. It can be regarded as a numerical characteristic of a population or a statistical model.

Statistical population

In statistics, a population is a set of similar items or events which is of interest for some question or experiment. A statistical population can be a group of existing objects (e.g. the set of all stars within the Milky Way galaxy) or a hypothetical and potentially infinite group of objects conceived as a generalization from experience (e.g. the set of all possible hands in a game of poker). A common aim of statistical analysis is to produce information about some chosen population.In statistical inference, a subset of the population (a statistical sample) is chosen to represent the population in a statistical analysis. The ratio of the size of this statistical sample to the size of the population is called a sampling fraction. It is then possible to estimate the population parameters using the appropriate sample statistics.


A statistician is a person who works with theoretical or applied statistics. The profession exists in both the private and public sectors. It is common to combine statistical knowledge with expertise in other subjects, and statisticians may work as employees or as statistical consultants.

Time domain

Time domain is the analysis of mathematical functions, physical signals or time series of economic or environmental data, with respect to time. In the time domain, the signal or function's value is known for all real numbers, for the case of continuous time, or at various separate instants in the case of discrete time. An oscilloscope is a tool commonly used to visualize real-world signals in the time domain. A time-domain graph shows how a signal changes with time, whereas a frequency-domain graph shows how much of the signal lies within each given frequency band over a range of frequencies.

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