GeNIe Tutorials: Tutorial 4 - Creating influence diagrams

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Objective of the tutorial: To learn how to build an Inference diagram in GeNIe.

Estimated Time: 20 Minutes

At the end of the tutorial you will be able to:

  • Load a saved model from disk. [Part A].
  • Create a decision and value node and define properties for the nodes. [Part B, C, D].
  • Draw inference based on utility values for different policies. [Part E].

While Bayesian networks allow us to quantify uncertain interactions among random variables and use this quantification to determine the impact of observations, influence diagrams allow us to quantify a decision maker's decision options and preferences and use these to determine the optimal decision policy. In order to build a decision model, a decision maker should clearly frame both the problem and the decision to be made.

Decision analysis rests on an empirically verified assumption that while it is relatively easy for humans to specify elements of decisions, such as available decision options, relevant factors, and payoffs, it is much harder to combine these elements into an optimal decision. This assumption suggests strongly that decisions be modeled. A model supports a decision by computing the expected value (or expected utility) of each decision alternative. The decision alternative with the highest expected gain is by definition optimal and should be chosen by the decision maker.

In this tutorial, we will extend the simple Bayesian network built in the Building a Bayesian Network tutorial to an influence diagram.

Now consider the following scenario ...

Suppose that our venture capitalist invests $5,000 in the venture. She knows that if the venture is successful, she will earn an additional $10,000 on it. If it is not successful, she will lose her entire investment of $5,000, and if she does not invest, her gain will be $500 from a risk-free investment in a bank. We will assume that our capitalist is interested only in financial gain. In case other factors play a role, such as intangible values or non-linearities in the intrinsic value of money, they can be captured by a measure known as utility. GeNIe supports expected utility calculation but leaves it to the user to learn how to measure and represent utility.

We will extend our simple Bayesian network created in the Building a Bayesian Network tutorial into an influence diagram by adding to it a decision node and a utility node. We will subsequently use this influence diagram to evaluate the two available policy options: Invest and DoNotInvest.

A. We will need to open the Bayesian network created in the Building a Bayesian Network tutorial.

If you do not have it saved, you can find a copy in the GeNIe/Example Networks folder. It is named tutorial3.xdsl

1. Click on OpenButton.jpg [Open Button] on the Standard Toolbar.

GeNIe will display the Open dialog box as shown below:


2. Click on Example Networks directory.

3. Select tutorial3.xdsl from the list and click on Open .

See the Saving and Loading models tutorial for more information on loading files in GeNIe.

You should have the following network loaded in Graph View:


B. Lets create a decision node and define its states,

select the DecisionButton.jpg (Decision) tool from the Tool menu or the Standard toolbar and click on some empty space near the network.

You can always move the new node around for a more pleasant and readable layout by clicking and dragging it on the screen.

1. Double-click on the created rectangle to open its Node Properties sheet.

2. Change the Identifier of the new node to Invest and its Name to Investment decision .

3. Click on the Definition tab and change the names of the decision options to Invest and DoNotInvest .

You will obtain the following:


4. Click on OK to return to Graph View .

C. We need to create a value node to represent the utility values for each decision and link it to the diagram.

1. Select the ValueButton1.jpg (Value) tool from the Tool menu or the Standard toolbar and click on some other empty space near the network.

2. Double click on the node, change its identifier to Gain and its name to Financial Gain. and click OK.

You should obtain the following:


We need to tie the two new nodes (nodes Investment Decision and Financial Gain) with the original Bayesian network (nodes Success of the venture and Expert Forecast) using arcs. The financial gain from the investment depends clearly on whether the investment is made or not and on whether the investment will succeed. We reflect this by adding arcs as follows:

3. Draw an arc from node Invest to node Gain and from node Success to node Gain .

The resulting influence diagram should look as follows:


In as much as presence of an arc between two nodes denotes a direct dependence between them, absence of an arc represents independence. And so, the investment decision in this model has no impact on the success or failure of the venture. The only impact that the expert forecast has on the financial gain is indirect, by changing our belief in the success of the venture.

D. Now we are ready to enter the definition of the value node Gain.

1. Open the Node Properties Sheet for Financial Gain [double click on the node]

2. Click on the Definition tab, and entering the different values of gains, as shown below:


Please note that the gain is indexed by both the investment decision and the success of the venture: we have specified the monetary gain for each possible combination of values of the nodes Invest and Success. For example, if the capitalist decides to invest (outcome Invest) and the venture ends up in a success (outcome Success), the gain is $10,000.

E. We are now ready to solve the diagram, i.e., to determine which of the decision options (Invest or DoNotInvest) leads to the highest expected gain. Similarly to reasoning in Bayesian networks, we will use the Update tool.

Click on the UpdateTool.jpg (Update tool) from the standard toolbar.

This solves the influence diagram.

You can examine the solution by double-clicking on either the decision node (Invest) or the value node (Gain) and choosing the Value tab.

There is a difference in what you will see in terms of the result in each of these, but this difference materializes only in influence diagrams containing multiple decision nodes.

In our diagram, the decision node shows the result as follows:


This result states essentially that the expected value of investment is a loss of $2,000, while the expected value of not investing is $500. If expected value is the only investment criterion, our venture capitalist should not invest. The value node shows essentially the same result.


GeNIe has two algorithms that can be used here. They are Policy Evaluation and Find Best Policy. They are the listed in the Network Menu.

To choose to apply a particular algorithm click on the appropriate option in the Network menu. GeNIe displays a dot beside the currently active algorithm.

If the focus of reasoning is finding the best decision option rather than computing the expected values (or expected utilities) of a set of decision options, we suggest that the algorithm for finding the best policy be used. The Policy Evaluation algorithm solves the whole model, exploring all the possible combinations of decision nodes and observations. For all those combinations, it also calculates the posterior distributions of all those nodes in the network that are impacted by them. All this information may be not necessary for some systems, notably those in which it is enough to identify the best decision option for the next decision step. This is precisely what the Find Best Policy option algorithm is about. The algorithm calculates this best choice much faster than when evaluating all policies.

To use this algorithm, set the default influence diagram algorithm to Find Best Policy and update beliefs. The algorithm will only calculate the best choice for the first undecided decision node. Once the network is updated, the best choice for the first undecided decision node will be the one containing a "1" in the node value. The rest of the choices will contain 0. The algorithm is applicable only to those influence diagrams whose first undecided decision node has no undecided/unobserved parents.

This concludes the tutorial session on influence diagrams. You can find the above model among the example models under the name tutorial4.xdsl included in the distribution version of GeNIe.

Be careful while saving the model you just worked one, because if you choose the Save option then the tutorial1 file will be overwritten. if you want to save the model you just created, choose the Save As.. option from the File Menu.

Next Tutorial:

GeNIe Tutorials: Tutorial 5 - Loading and saving models

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