Valid Statistical Inference Based on

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Valid Statistical Inference Based on
Feedforward Artificial Neural Network Models
Janette F. Walde, Department of Statistics, University Innsbruck, Universitätsstr. 15,
6020 Innsbruck, Austria; email: [email protected]
Abstract
To date, most applications of feedforward artificial neural networks (ANNs) have been
concerned with the estimation of relationships between input and target variables of
interest. Nevertheless, ANN have a broader utility that has yet to be fully appreciated by
neural network practitioners, but which has the potential to significantly enhance
scientific understanding of empirical phenomena subject to neural network modeling. In
particular, the estimates obtained from network learning can serve as a basis for formal
statistical inference. Statistical tests of specific scientific hypothesis of interest become
possible. Because of the ability of ANNs to extract complex nonlinear and interactive
effects, the alternatives against which such tests can have power may extend usefully
beyond those within reach of more traditional methods, like linear regression analysis. By
means of theoretical proofs and available statistical methods, I demonstrate that valid
inferences can be gained regarding the significance of input variables and their impact on
the target. The feasibility is shown with the help of concrete applications.
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