Learning and Cognitive Systems

Appendix 1: The Gamma-Distribution

"Gamma distributions are used as sampling distributions for positive and skewed data, such as costs or times to events... Note that the gamma is sometimes parameterised in terms of the scale 1/b instead of the rate b." (LUNN et al., The BUGS Book, 2013, p.345f). In OpenBUGS the b-parameter is from type scale and in WebCHURCH it is from type rate.

When developing a Bayesian model most often a and b are unknown but instead we have some vague idea about the mean and variance of the gamma-distributed priors. So we need equations for a and b in terms of the mean and variance of the gamma-distributed variable. In the table below is a summary of the relations between the parameters.


Relations between Parameters of Gamma-distributed Variables
expression in programming languageX ~ dgamma(a, b)(define x (gamma a b))
mean mE(X) = m = a/bE(X) = m = a*b
variance s^2Var(X) = s^2 = a/(b^2)Var(X) = s^2 = a*(b^2)
standard deviation sStd(X) = s = sqrt(a)/bStd(X) = s = sqrt(a)*b
shape parameter aa = (m^2)/(s^2)a = (m^2)/(s^2)
scale or rate parameter bb = m/(s^2)   ## scaleb = (s^2)/m     ;; rate


Below are the derivations of a and b in terms of m and s for OpenBUGS and WebCHURCH.


Derivation of Gamma Parameters in Terms of m and s
shape parameter a

a/b = m

==> a = m*b 

==> a = m*(sqrt(a)/s)

==> (a/sqrt(a)) = (m/s) 

==> sqrt(a) = m/s

==> a = (m^2)/(s^2)

a = m/b

==> a = m *(1/(s/sqrt(a)))

==> a = m*(sqrt(a)/s)

==> a/sqrt(a) = m/s

==> a = (m^2)/(s^2)

scale/rate parameter b

sqrt(a)/b = s 

==> sqrt(a)/s = b

==> (m/s)/s = b

==> (m/s)*(1/s) = b

==> b = m/(s^2)

## scale 

b = s/sqrt(a)

==> b = s/(m/s)

==> b = s*(s/m)

==> b = (s^2)/m

;; rate





Appendix 1: Use of Gamma-Distribution in CHURCH

The CHURCH-code can be found here.