Australian & New Zealand Journal of Statistics

A note on model selection using information criteria for general linear models estimated using REML

Journal Article

It is common practice to compare the fit of non‐nested models using the Akaike (AIC) or Bayesian (BIC) information criteria. The basis of these criteria is the log‐likelihood evaluated at the maximum likelihood estimates of the unknown parameters. For the general linear model (and the linear mixed model, which is a special case), estimation is usually carried out using residual or restricted maximum likelihood (REML). However, for models with different fixed effects, the residual likelihoods are not comparable and hence information criteria based on the residual likelihood cannot be used. For model selection, it is often suggested that the models are refitted using maximum likelihood to enable the criteria to be used. The first aim of this paper is to highlight that both the AIC and BIC can be used for the general linear model by using the full log‐likelihood evaluated at the REML estimates. The second aim is to provide a derivation of the criteria under REML estimation. This aim is achieved by noting that the full likelihood can be decomposed into a marginal (residual) and conditional likelihood and this decomposition then incorporates aspects of both the fixed effects and variance parameters. Using this decomposition, the appropriate information criteria for model selection of models which differ in their fixed effects specification can be derived. An example is presented to illustrate the results and code is available for analyses using the ASReml‐R package.

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