Comparing Bayesian Variable Selection to Lasso Approaches for Applications in Psychology

Sierra A. Bainter, Thomas G. McCauley, Mahmoud M. Fahmy, Zachary T. Goodman, Lauren B. Kupis, J. Sunil Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the current paper, we review existing tools for solving variable selection problems in psychology. Modern regularization methods such as lasso regression have recently been introduced in the field and are incorporated into popular methodologies, such as network analysis. However, several recognized limitations of lasso regularization may limit its suitability for psychological research. In this paper, we compare the properties of lasso approaches used for variable selection to Bayesian variable selection approaches. In particular we highlight advantages of stochastic search variable selection (SSVS), that make it well suited for variable selection applications in psychology. We demonstrate these advantages and contrast SSVS with lasso type penalization in an application to predict depression symptoms in a large sample and an accompanying simulation study. We investigate the effects of sample size, effect size, and patterns of correlation among predictors on rates of correct and false inclusion and bias in the estimates. SSVS as investigated here is reasonably computationally efficient and powerful to detect moderate effects in small sample sizes (or small effects in moderate sample sizes), while protecting against false inclusion and without over-penalizing true effects. We recommend SSVS as a flexible framework that is well-suited for the field, discuss limitations, and suggest directions for future development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1032-1055
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Bayesian
  • lasso
  • penalization
  • regression
  • shrinkage priors
  • stochastic search variable selection
  • variable selection

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Review
  • Journal Article


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