Gibbs Sampler

Problem Statement

To sample from \(p(\mathbf{x})\) where \(\mathbf{x}\) is a \(D\)-dimensional vector. \(p(\mathbf{x})\) is not easy to sample from directly, but each factorized conditional distribution \(p(x_i|\mathbf{x}_{\neg i})\), where \(\mathbf{x}_{\neg i} = (x_1, \dots, x_{i-1}, x_{i+1}, \dots, x_D)\), is easy to sample from.

Gibbs Sampler

Given \(\mathbf{x}^{(t)}\), \(\mathbf{X}^{(t+1)}\) is generated by the following procedure: \[ \begin{align} X_1^{(t+1)} &\sim p(x_1|x_2^{(t)}, \dots, x_D^{(t)}) \\ X_2^{(t+1)} &\sim p(x_2|x_1^{(t+1)}, x_3^{(t)}, \dots, x_D^{(t)}) \\ & \vdots \\ X_D^{(t+1)} &\sim p(x_D|x_1^{(t+1)}, \dots, x_{D-1}^{(t+1)}) \end{align} \]

Irreducibility of Gibbs Sampler

The Gibbs sampler might not always be irreducible for a given state distribution \(p(\mathbf{x})\). A counterexample is given in "Monte Carlo Statistical Methods", Example 7.1.10.1 A sufficient condition for the chain to be irreducible is the positivity condition:

Let \((X_1, \dots, X_D) \sim p(x_1, \dots, x_D)\), where \(p_i\) denotes the marginal distribution of \(X_i\). If \(p_i(x_i) > 0\) for all \(i = 1,\dots,D\) implies that \(p(x_1,\dots,x_D) > 0\), then \(p\) satisfies the positivity condition.

And we further have:

Gibbs sampler derived from \(p\) satisfying the positivity condition is irreducible.


  1. Robert, C. P., & Casella, G. (2005). Monte Carlo Statistical Methods (Springer Texts in Statistics). Secaucus, NJ, USA: Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.↩︎