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In my work, I have repeatedly stumbled across the matrix (with a generic matrix $X$ of dimensions $m\times n$ with $m>n$ given) $\Lambda=X(X^tX)^{-1}X^{t}$. It can be characterized by the following:

(1) If $v$ is in the span of the column vectors of $X$, then $\Lambda v=v$.

(2) If $v$ is orthogonal to the span of the column vectors of $X$, then $\Lambda v = 0$.

(we assume that $X$ has full rank).

I find this matrix neat, but for my work (in statistics) I need more intuition behind it. What does it mean in a probability context? We are deriving properties of linear regressions, where each row in $X$ is an observation.

Is this matrix known, and if so in what context (statistics would be optimal but if it is a celebrated operation in differential geometry, I'd be curious to hear as well)?

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Perhaps you mean $X(X^TX)^{-1}X^T$? Otherwise the sizes don't match. – Rahul Jun 23 '11 at 7:58
If so, I think the properties you have listed are a perfectly good interpretation: the matrix $\Lambda$ projects any vector $v$ to the column space of $X$. – Rahul Jun 23 '11 at 8:00
Thanks. Typo fixed. – Har Jun 23 '11 at 8:04
Oh, I actually figured it out now. $(I-\Lambda)$ takes outcomes $Y$, does a regression and spits out the estimated residuals. If anyone else is interested, I'll elaborate more. – Har Jun 23 '11 at 8:15
up vote 11 down vote accepted

It is also called hat matrix. The idea is that this matrix "gives the hat": transforms the dependent variable to its prediction in linear regression.

The linear regression model is the following:


The least squares estimate of the $\beta$ is defined as


The prediction of the model is then:


So we get that matrix $X(X^TX)^{-1}X^T$ transforms $y$ to $\hat{y}$, hence the hat matrix.

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Beautiful. This was exactly what I was looking for. I just (well, 35 minutes ago) managed to deduce the relevant properties but knowing that it is called the hat matrix might be very useful! Thanks! – Har Jun 23 '11 at 8:52

This should be a comment, but I can't leave comments yet. As pointed out by Rahul Narain, this is the orthogonal projection onto the column space of $X$

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