A linear regression model assumes that the regression function E(Y |X) is linear in the inputs X1, . . . ,Xp. Linear models were largely developed in the precomputer age of statistics, but even in today’s computer era there are still good reasons to study and use them. They are simple and often provide an adequate and interpretable description of how the inputs affect the output. For prediction purposes they can sometimes outperform fancier nonlinear models, especially in situations with small numbers of training cases, low signal-to-noise ratio or sparse data. Finally, linear methods can be applied to transformations of the inputs and this considerably expands their scope. These generalizations are sometimes called basis-function methods, and are discussed in Chapter 5.
In this chapter we describe linear methods for regression, while in the next chapter we discuss linear methods for classification. On some topics we go into considerable detail, as it is our firm belief that an understanding of linear methods is essential for understanding nonlinear ones. In fact, many nonlinear techniques are direct generalizations of the linear methods discussed here.