On exchangeable random variables and the statistics of large graphs and hypergraphs

Tim Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


De Finetti's classical result of identifying the law of an exchangeable family of random variables as a mixture of i.i.d. laws was extended to structure theorems for more complex notions of exchangeability by Aldous Hoover,Kallenberg and Kingman . On the other hand, such exchangeable laws were first related to questions from combinatorics in an independent analysis by Fremlin and Talagrand , and again more recently in Tao , where they appear as a natural proxy for the 'leading order statistics' of colourings of large graphs or hyper- graphs. Moreover, this relation appears implicitly in the study of various more bespoke formalisms for handling 'limit objects' of sequences of dense graphs or hypergraphs in a number of recent works, including Lov'asz and Szegedy , Borgs, Chayes, Lov'asz, S'os, Szegedy and Vesztergombi , Elek and Szegedy and Razborov . However, the connection be- tween these works and the earlier probabilistic structural results seems to have gone largely unappreciated. In this survey we recall the basic results of the theory of exchangeable laws, and then explain the probabilistic versions of various interesting questions from graph and hypergraph theory that their connection motivates (particularly extremal questions on the testability of properties for graphs and hypergraphs). We also locate the notions of exchangeability of interest to us in the context of other classes of probability measures subject to various symmetries, in particular contrasting the methods employed to analyze exchangeable laws with related structural results in ergodic theory, particular the Furstenberg-Zimmer structure theorem for probability-preserving Z-systems, which underpins Furstenberg's ergodic-theoretic proof of Szemer'edi's Theorem. The forthcoming paper will make a much more elaborate appeal to the link between exchangeable laws and dense (directed) hypergraphs to establish various results in property testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-145
Number of pages66
JournalProbability Surveys
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability


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