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**Inferences from multinomial data: Learning about a bag of marbles. (With discussion).**
*(English)*
Zbl 0834.62004

Summary: A new method is proposed for making inferences from multinomial data in cases where there is no prior information. A paradigm is the problem of predicting the colour of the next marble to be drawn from a bag whose contents are (initially) completely unknown. In such problems we may be unable to formulate a sample space because we do not know what outcomes are possible. This suggests an invariance principle: inferences based on observations should not depend on the sample space in which the observations and future events of interest are represented. Objective Bayesian methods do not satisfy this principle.

This paper describes a statistical model, called the imprecise Dirichlet model, for drawing coherent inferences from multinomial data. Inferences are expressed in terms of posterior upper and lower probabilities. The probabilities are initially vacuous, reflecting prior ignorance, but they become more precise as the number of observations increases. This model does satisfy the invariance principle.

Two sets of data are analysed in detail. In the first example one red marble is observed in six drawings from a bag. Inferences from the imprecise Dirichlet model are compared with objective Bayesian and frequentist inferences. The second example is an analysis of data from medical trials which compared two treatments for cardiorespiratory failure in newborn babies. There are two problems: to draw conclusions about which treatment is more effective and to decide when the randomized trials should be terminated. This example shows how the imprecise Dirichlet model can be used to analyse data in the form of a contingency table.

This paper describes a statistical model, called the imprecise Dirichlet model, for drawing coherent inferences from multinomial data. Inferences are expressed in terms of posterior upper and lower probabilities. The probabilities are initially vacuous, reflecting prior ignorance, but they become more precise as the number of observations increases. This model does satisfy the invariance principle.

Two sets of data are analysed in detail. In the first example one red marble is observed in six drawings from a bag. Inferences from the imprecise Dirichlet model are compared with objective Bayesian and frequentist inferences. The second example is an analysis of data from medical trials which compared two treatments for cardiorespiratory failure in newborn babies. There are two problems: to draw conclusions about which treatment is more effective and to decide when the randomized trials should be terminated. This example shows how the imprecise Dirichlet model can be used to analyse data in the form of a contingency table.

### MSC:

62A01 | Foundations and philosophical topics in statistics |

62P10 | Applications of statistics to biology and medical sciences; meta analysis |

### Keywords:

Bernoulli trials; Dirichlet distribution; imprecise probabilities; inductive logic; randomized clinical trials; new method; multinomial data; invariance principle; imprecise Dirichlet model; coherent inferences; posterior upper and lower probabilities; prior ignorance; frequentist inferences; cardiorespiratory failure; contingency table### Software:

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\textit{P. Walley}, J. R. Stat. Soc., Ser. B 58, No. 1, 3--57 (1996; Zbl 0834.62004)

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