Finite Sample Approximation Results for Principal Component Analysis: a Matrix Perturbation Approach


Principal Component Analysis (PCA) is a standard tool for dimensional reduction of a set of n observations (samples), each with p variables. In this paper, using a matrix perturbation approach, we study the non-asymptotic relation between the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of PCA computed on a finite sample of size n, to those of the limiting population PCA as n → ∞. As in machine learning, we present a finite sample theorem which holds with high probability for the closeness between the leading eigenvalue and eigenvector of sample PCA and population PCA under a spiked covariance model. In addition, we also consider the relation between finite sample PCA and the asymptotic results in the joint limit p, n →∞, with p/n = c. We present a matrix perturbation view of the “phase transition phenomenon”, and a simple linear-algebra based derivation of the eigenvalue and eigenvector overlap in this asymptotic limit. Moreover, our analysis also applies for finite p, n where we show that although there is no sharp phase transition as in the infinite case, either as a function of noise level or as a function of sample size n, the eigenvector of sample PCA may exhibit a sharp ”loss of tracking”, suddenly losing its relation to the (true) eigenvector of the population PCA matrix. This occurs due to a crossover between the eigenvalue due to the signal and the largest eigenvalue due to noise, whose eigenvector points in a random direction.

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@inproceedings{Nadler2008FiniteSA, title={Finite Sample Approximation Results for Principal Component Analysis: a Matrix Perturbation Approach}, author={Boaz Nadler}, year={2008} }