Abstract

We present a Bayesian tensor factorization model for inferring latent group structures from dynamic pairwise interaction patterns. For decades, political scientists have collected and analyzed records of the form “country i took action a toward country j at time t” known as dyadic events in order to form and test theories of international relations. We represent these event data as a tensor of counts and develop Bayesian Poisson tensor factorization to infer a low dimensional, interpretable representation of their salient patterns. We demonstrate that our model’s predictive performance is better than that of standard non-negative tensor factorization methods. We also provide a comparison of our variational updates to their maximum likelihood counterparts. In doing so, we identify a better way to form point estimates of the latent factors than that typically used in Bayesian Poisson matrix factorization. Finally, we showcase our model as an exploratory analysis tool for political scientists. We show that the inferred latent factor matrices capture interpretable multilateral relations that both conform to and inform our knowledge of international affairs.