# likelihood function

Let X=($X_{1},\ldots,X_{n}$) be a random vector and

 $\{f_{\mathbf{X}}(\boldsymbol{x}\mid\boldsymbol{\theta}):\boldsymbol{\theta}\in\Theta\}$

a statistical model parametrized by $\boldsymbol{\theta}=(\theta_{1},\ldots,\theta_{k})$, the parameter vector in the parameter space $\Theta$. The likelihood function  is a map $L:\Theta\to\mathbb{R}$ given by

 $L(\boldsymbol{\theta}\mid\boldsymbol{x})=f_{\mathbf{X}}(\boldsymbol{x}\mid% \boldsymbol{\theta}).$

In other words, the likelikhood function  is functionally the same in form as a probability density function  . However, the emphasis is changed from the $\boldsymbol{x}$ to the $\boldsymbol{\theta}$. The pdf is a function of the $x$’s while holding the parameters $\theta$’s constant, $L$ is a function of the parameters $\theta$’s, while holding the $x$’s constant.

When there is no confusion, $L(\boldsymbol{\theta}\mid\boldsymbol{x})$ is abbreviated to be $L(\boldsymbol{\theta})$.

The parameter vector $\hat{\boldsymbol{\theta}}$ such that $L(\hat{\boldsymbol{\theta}})\geq L(\boldsymbol{\theta})$ for all $\boldsymbol{\theta}\in\Theta$ is called a maximum likelihood estimate, or MLE, of $\boldsymbol{\theta}$.

Many of the density functions are exponential   in nature, it is therefore easier to compute the MLE of a likelihood function $L$ by finding the maximum of the natural log of $L$, known as the log-likelihood function:

 $\ell(\boldsymbol{\theta}\mid\boldsymbol{x})=\operatorname{ln}(L(\boldsymbol{% \theta}\mid\boldsymbol{x}))$

due to the monotonicity of the log function.

Examples:

1. 1.

A coin is tossed $n$ times and $m$ heads are observed. Assume that the probability of a head after one toss is $\pi$. What is the MLE of $\pi$?

Solution: Define the outcome of a toss be 0 if a tail is observed and 1 if a head is observed. Next, let $X_{i}$ be the outcome of the $i$th toss. For any single toss, the density function is $\pi^{x}(1-\pi)^{1-x}$ where $x\in\{0,1\}$. Assume that the tosses are independent events, then the joint probability density is

 $f_{\mathbf{X}}(\boldsymbol{x}\mid\pi)=\binom{n}{\Sigma x_{i}}\pi^{\Sigma x_{i}% }(1-\pi)^{\Sigma(1-x_{i})}=\binom{n}{m}\pi^{m}(1-\pi)^{n-m},$

which is also the likelihood function $L(\pi)$. Therefore, the log-likelihood function has the form

 $\ell(\pi\mid\boldsymbol{x})=\ell(\pi)=\operatorname{ln}\binom{n}{m}+m% \operatorname{ln}(\pi)+(n-m)\operatorname{ln}(1-\pi).$

Using standard calculus, we get that the MLE of $\pi$ is

 $\hat{\pi}=\frac{m}{n}=\overline{x}.$
2. 2.

Suppose a sample of $n$ data points $X_{i}$ are collected. Assume that the $X_{i}\sim N(\mu,\sigma^{2})$ and the $X_{i}$’s are independent of each other. What is the MLE of the parameter vector $\boldsymbol{\theta}=(\mu,\sigma^{2})$?

Solution: The joint pdf of the $X_{i}$, and hence the likelihood function, is

 $L(\boldsymbol{\theta}\mid\boldsymbol{x})=\frac{1}{\sigma^{n}(2\pi)^{n/2}}% \operatorname{exp}(-\frac{\Sigma(x_{i}-\mu)^{2}}{2\sigma^{2}}).$

The log-likelihood function is

 $\ell(\boldsymbol{\theta}\mid\boldsymbol{x})=-\frac{\Sigma(x_{i}-\mu)^{2}}{2% \sigma^{2}}-\frac{n}{2}\operatorname{ln}(\sigma^{2})-\frac{n}{2}\operatorname{% ln}(2\pi).$
 $\frac{\partial\ell}{\partial\boldsymbol{\theta}}=(\frac{\Sigma(x_{i}-\mu)}{% \sigma^{2}},\frac{\Sigma(x_{i}-\mu)^{2}}{2\sigma^{4}}-\frac{n}{2\sigma^{2}}).$

Setting

 $\frac{\partial\ell}{\partial\boldsymbol{\theta}}=\boldsymbol{0}\mbox{ See % score function}$

and solve for $\boldsymbol{\theta}=(\mu,\sigma^{2})$ we have

 $\boldsymbol{\hat{\theta}}=(\hat{\mu},\hat{\sigma}^{2})=(\overline{x},\frac{n-1% }{n}s^{2}),$

where $\overline{x}=\Sigma x_{i}/n$ is the sample mean  and $s^{2}=\Sigma(x_{i}-\overline{x})^{2}/(n-1)$ is the sample variance. Finally, we verify that $\hat{\boldsymbol{\theta}}$ is indeed the MLE of $\boldsymbol{\theta}$ by checking the negativity of the 2nd derivatives (for each parameter).

Title likelihood function LikelihoodFunction 2013-03-22 14:27:58 2013-03-22 14:27:58 CWoo (3771) CWoo (3771) 13 CWoo (3771) Definition msc 62A01 likelihood statistic likelihood maximum likelihood estimate MLE log-likelihood function