Moving Beyond Linearity
So far in this book, we have mostly focused on linear models. Linear models are relatively simple to describe and implement, and have advantages over other approaches in terms of interpretation and inference. However, standard linear regression can have significant limitations in terms of predictive power. This is because the linearity assumption is almost always an approximation, and sometimes a poor one. In Chapter 6 we see that we can improve upon least squares using ridge regression, the lasso, principal components regression, and other techniques. In that setting, the improvement is obtained by reducing the complexity of the linear model, and hence the variance of the estimates. But we are still using a linear model, which can only be improved so far! In this chapter we relax the linearity assumption while still attempting to maintain as much interpretability as possible. We do this by examining very simple extensions of linear models like polynomial regression and step functions, as well as more sophisticated approaches such as splines, local regression, and generalized additive models.