In

mathematics
Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in modern mathematics ...

, an indicator function or a characteristic function of a subset
In mathematics, set ''A'' is a subset of a set ''B'' if all elements of ''A'' are also elements of ''B''; ''B'' is then a superset of ''A''. It is possible for ''A'' and ''B'' to be equal; if they are unequal, then ''A'' is a proper subset o ...

of a set is a function
Function or functionality may refer to:
Computing
* Function key, a type of key on computer keyboards
* Function model, a structured representation of processes in a system
* Function object or functor or functionoid, a concept of object-orien ...

that maps elements of the subset to one, and all other elements to zero. That is, if is a subset of some set , one has $\backslash mathbf\_(x)=1$ if $x\backslash in\; A,$ and $\backslash mathbf\_(x)=0$ otherwise, where $\backslash mathbf\_A$ is a common notation for the indicator function. Other common notations are $I\_A,$ and $\backslash chi\_A.$
The indicator function of is the Iverson bracket
In mathematics, the Iverson bracket, named after Kenneth E. Iverson, is a notation that generalises the Kronecker delta, which is the Iverson bracket of the statement . It maps any statement to a function of the free variables in that statement ...

of the property of belonging to ; that is,
:$\backslash mathbf\_(x)=;\; href="/html/ALL/s/\backslash in\_A.html"\; ;"title="\backslash in\; A">\backslash in\; A$
For example, the Dirichlet function
In mathematics, the Dirichlet function is the indicator function 1Q or \mathbf_\Q of the set of rational numbers Q, i.e. if ''x'' is a rational number and if ''x'' is not a rational number (i.e. an irrational number).
\mathbf 1_\Q(x) = \begin
1 & ...

is the indicator function of the rational number
In mathematics, a rational number is a number that can be expressed as the quotient or fraction of two integers, a numerator and a non-zero denominator . For example, is a rational number, as is every integer (e.g. ). The set of all rati ...

s as a subset of the real number
In mathematics, a real number is a number that can be used to measure a ''continuous'' one- dimensional quantity such as a distance, duration or temperature. Here, ''continuous'' means that values can have arbitrarily small variations. Ever ...

s.
Definition

The indicator function of a subset of a set is a function $$\backslash mathbf\_A\; \backslash colon\; X\; \backslash to\; \backslash $$ defined as $$\backslash mathbf\_A(x)\; :=\; \backslash begin\; 1\; ~\&\backslash text~\; x\; \backslash in\; A~,\; \backslash \backslash \; 0\; ~\&\backslash text~\; x\; \backslash notin\; A~.\; \backslash end$$ TheIverson bracket
In mathematics, the Iverson bracket, named after Kenneth E. Iverson, is a notation that generalises the Kronecker delta, which is the Iverson bracket of the statement . It maps any statement to a function of the free variables in that statement ...

provides the equivalent notation, $;\; href="/html/ALL/s/\backslash in\_A.html"\; ;"title="\backslash in\; A">\backslash in\; A$Notation and terminology

The notation $\backslash chi\_A$ is also used to denote thecharacteristic function In mathematics, the term "characteristic function" can refer to any of several distinct concepts:
* The indicator function of a subset, that is the function
::\mathbf_A\colon X \to \,
:which for a given subset ''A'' of ''X'', has value 1 at points ...

in convex analysis, which is defined as if using the reciprocal of the standard definition of the indicator function.
A related concept in statistics
Statistics (from German: '' Statistik'', "description of a state, a country") is the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data. In applying statistics to a scientific, industr ...

is that of a dummy variable. (This must not be confused with "dummy variables" as that term is usually used in mathematics, also called a bound variable.)
The term "characteristic function In mathematics, the term "characteristic function" can refer to any of several distinct concepts:
* The indicator function of a subset, that is the function
::\mathbf_A\colon X \to \,
:which for a given subset ''A'' of ''X'', has value 1 at points ...

" has an unrelated meaning in classic probability theory. For this reason, traditional probabilists use the term indicator function for the function defined here almost exclusively, while mathematicians in other fields are more likely to use the term ''characteristic function'' to describe the function that indicates membership in a set.
In fuzzy logic
Fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic in which the truth value of variables may be any real number between 0 and 1. It is employed to handle the concept of partial truth, where the truth value may range between completely true and completely ...

and modern many-valued logic, predicates are the characteristic functions of a probability distribution
In probability theory and statistics, a probability distribution is the mathematical function that gives the probabilities of occurrence of different possible outcomes for an experiment. It is a mathematical description of a random phenomenon i ...

. That is, the strict true/false valuation of the predicate is replaced by a quantity interpreted as the degree of truth.
Basic properties

The ''indicator'' or ''characteristic''function
Function or functionality may refer to:
Computing
* Function key, a type of key on computer keyboards
* Function model, a structured representation of processes in a system
* Function object or functor or functionoid, a concept of object-orien ...

of a subset of some set maps elements of to the range $\backslash $.
This mapping is surjective only when is a non-empty proper subset
In mathematics, set ''A'' is a subset of a set ''B'' if all elements of ''A'' are also elements of ''B''; ''B'' is then a superset of ''A''. It is possible for ''A'' and ''B'' to be equal; if they are unequal, then ''A'' is a proper subset o ...

of . If $A\; \backslash equiv\; X,$ then $\backslash mathbf\_A=1.$ By a similar argument, if $A\backslash equiv\backslash emptyset$ then $\backslash mathbf\_A=0.$
In the following, the dot represents multiplication, $1\backslash cdot1\; =\; 1,$ $1\backslash cdot0\; =\; 0,$ etc. "+" and "−" represent addition and subtraction. "$\backslash cap$" and "$\backslash cup$" are intersection and union, respectively.
If $A$ and $B$ are two subsets of $X,$ then
$$\backslash begin\; \backslash mathbf\_\; =\; \backslash min\backslash \; =\; \backslash mathbf\_A\; \backslash cdot\backslash mathbf\_B,\; \backslash \backslash \; \backslash mathbf\_\; =\; \backslash max\backslash \; =\; \backslash mathbf\_A\; +\; \backslash mathbf\_B\; -\; \backslash mathbf\_A\; \backslash cdot\backslash mathbf\_B,\; \backslash end$$
and the indicator function of the complement
A complement is something that completes something else.
Complement may refer specifically to:
The arts
* Complement (music), an interval that, when added to another, spans an octave
** Aggregate complementation, the separation of pitch-class ...

of $A$ i.e. $A^C$ is:
$$\backslash mathbf\_\; =\; 1-\backslash mathbf\_A.$$
More generally, suppose $A\_1,\; \backslash dotsc,\; A\_n$ is a collection of subsets of . For any $x\; \backslash in\; X:$
$$\backslash prod\_\; (\; 1\; -\; \backslash mathbf\_(x))$$
is clearly a product of s and s. This product has the value 1 at precisely those $x\; \backslash in\; X$ that belong to none of the sets $A\_k$ and is 0 otherwise. That is
$$\backslash prod\_\; (\; 1\; -\; \backslash mathbf\_)\; =\; \backslash mathbf\_\; =\; 1\; -\; \backslash mathbf\_.$$
Expanding the product on the left hand side,
$$\backslash mathbf\_=\; 1\; -\; \backslash sum\_\; (-1)^\; \backslash mathbf\_\; =\; \backslash sum\_\; (-1)^\; \backslash mathbf\_$$
where $,\; F,$ is the cardinality
In mathematics, the cardinality of a set is a measure of the number of elements of the set. For example, the set A = \ contains 3 elements, and therefore A has a cardinality of 3. Beginning in the late 19th century, this concept was generalized ...

of . This is one form of the principle of inclusion-exclusion.
As suggested by the previous example, the indicator function is a useful notational device in combinatorics
Combinatorics is an area of mathematics primarily concerned with counting, both as a means and an end in obtaining results, and certain properties of finite structures. It is closely related to many other areas of mathematics and has many ap ...

. The notation is used in other places as well, for instance in probability theory
Probability theory is the branch of mathematics concerned with probability. Although there are several different probability interpretations, probability theory treats the concept in a rigorous mathematical manner by expressing it through a set ...

: if is a probability space with probability measure $\backslash operatorname$ and is a measurable set
In mathematics, the concept of a measure is a generalization and formalization of geometrical measures (length, area, volume) and other common notions, such as mass and probability of events. These seemingly distinct concepts have many si ...

, then $\backslash mathbf\_A$ becomes a random variable
A random variable (also called random quantity, aleatory variable, or stochastic variable) is a mathematical formalization of a quantity or object which depends on random events. It is a mapping or a function from possible outcomes (e.g., the po ...

whose expected value
In probability theory, the expected value (also called expectation, expectancy, mathematical expectation, mean, average, or first moment) is a generalization of the weighted average. Informally, the expected value is the arithmetic mean of a ...

is equal to the probability of :
$$\backslash operatorname(\backslash mathbf\_A)=\; \backslash int\_\; \backslash mathbf\_A(x)\backslash ,d\backslash operatorname\; =\; \backslash int\_\; d\backslash operatorname\; =\; \backslash operatorname(A).$$
This identity is used in a simple proof of Markov's inequality.
In many cases, such as order theory, the inverse of the indicator function may be defined. This is commonly called the generalized Möbius function, as a generalization of the inverse of the indicator function in elementary number theory
Number theory (or arithmetic or higher arithmetic in older usage) is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers and integer-valued functions. German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) said, "Math ...

, the Möbius function
The Möbius function is a multiplicative function in number theory introduced by the German mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius (also transliterated ''Moebius'') in 1832. It is ubiquitous in elementary and analytic number theory and most of ...

. (See paragraph below about the use of the inverse in classical recursion theory.)
Mean, variance and covariance

Given a probability space $\backslash textstyle\; (\backslash Omega,\; \backslash mathcal\; F,\; \backslash operatorname)$ with $A\; \backslash in\; \backslash mathcal\; F,$ the indicator random variable $\backslash mathbf\_A\; \backslash colon\; \backslash Omega\; \backslash rightarrow\; \backslash mathbb$ is defined by $\backslash mathbf\_A\; (\backslash omega)\; =\; 1$ if $\backslash omega\; \backslash in\; A,$ otherwise $\backslash mathbf\_A\; (\backslash omega)\; =\; 0.$ ; Mean: $\backslash operatorname(\backslash mathbf\_A\; (\backslash omega))\; =\; \backslash operatorname(A)$ (also called "Fundamental Bridge"). ;Variance
In probability theory and statistics, variance is the expectation of the squared deviation of a random variable from its population mean or sample mean. Variance is a measure of dispersion, meaning it is a measure of how far a set of number ...

: $\backslash operatorname(\backslash mathbf\_A\; (\backslash omega))\; =\; \backslash operatorname(A)(1\; -\; \backslash operatorname(A))$
; Covariance: $\backslash operatorname(\backslash mathbf\_A\; (\backslash omega),\; \backslash mathbf\_B\; (\backslash omega))\; =\; \backslash operatorname(A\; \backslash cap\; B)\; -\; \backslash operatorname(A)\backslash operatorname(B)$
Characteristic function in recursion theory, Gödel's and Kleene's representing function

Kurt Gödel described the ''representing function'' in his 1934 paper "On undecidable propositions of formal mathematical systems" (the "¬" indicates logical inversion, i.e. "NOT"): Kleene offers up the same definition in the context of theprimitive recursive function
In computability theory, a primitive recursive function is roughly speaking a function that can be computed by a computer program whose loops are all "for" loops (that is, an upper bound of the number of iterations of every loop can be determine ...

s as a function of a predicate takes on values if the predicate is true and if the predicate is false.
For example, because the product of characteristic functions $\backslash phi\_1\; *\; \backslash phi\_2\; *\; \backslash cdots\; *\; \backslash phi\_n\; =\; 0$ whenever any one of the functions equals , it plays the role of logical OR: IF $\backslash phi\_1\; =\; 0$ OR $\backslash phi\_2\; =\; 0$ OR ... OR $\backslash phi\_n\; =\; 0$ THEN their product is . What appears to the modern reader as the representing function's logical inversion, i.e. the representing function is when the function is "true" or satisfied", plays a useful role in Kleene's definition of the logical functions OR, AND, and IMPLY, the bounded- and unbounded- mu operators and the CASE function.
Characteristic function in fuzzy set theory

In classical mathematics, characteristic functions of sets only take values (members) or (non-members). In '' fuzzy set theory'', characteristic functions are generalized to take value in the real unit interval , or more generally, in somealgebra
Algebra () is one of the broad areas of mathematics. Roughly speaking, algebra is the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating these symbols in formulas; it is a unifying thread of almost all of mathematics.
Elementary ...

or structure
A structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system, or the object or system so organized. Material structures include man-made objects such as buildings and machines and natural objects such ...

(usually required to be at least a poset or lattice). Such generalized characteristic functions are more usually called membership functions, and the corresponding "sets" are called ''fuzzy'' sets. Fuzzy sets model the gradual change in the membership degree seen in many real-world predicate
Predicate or predication may refer to:
* Predicate (grammar), in linguistics
* Predication (philosophy)
* several closely related uses in mathematics and formal logic:
** Predicate (mathematical logic)
** Propositional function
**Finitary relation ...

s like "tall", "warm", etc.
Derivatives of the indicator function

A particular indicator function is theHeaviside step function
The Heaviside step function, or the unit step function, usually denoted by or (but sometimes , or ), is a step function, named after Oliver Heaviside (1850–1925), the value of which is zero for negative arguments and one for positive argumen ...

$$H(x)\; :=\; \backslash mathbf\_$$
The distributional derivative of the Heaviside step function is equal to the Dirac delta function, i.e.
$$\backslash frac=\backslash delta(x)$$
and similarly the distributional derivative of $$G(x)\; :=\; \backslash mathbf\_$$ is
$$\backslash frac=-\backslash delta(x)$$
Thus the derivative of the Heaviside step function can be seen as the ''inward normal derivative'' at the ''boundary'' of the domain given by the positive half-line. In higher dimensions, the derivative naturally generalises to the inward normal derivative, while the Heaviside step function naturally generalises to the indicator function of some domain . The surface of will be denoted by . Proceeding, it can be derived that the inward normal derivative of the indicator gives rise to a 'surface delta function', which can be indicated by $\backslash delta\_S(\backslash mathbf)$:
$$\backslash delta\_S(\backslash mathbf)\; =\; -\backslash mathbf\_x\; \backslash cdot\; \backslash nabla\_x\backslash mathbf\_$$
where is the outward normal of the surface . This 'surface delta function' has the following property:
$$-\backslash int\_f(\backslash mathbf)\backslash ,\backslash mathbf\_x\backslash cdot\backslash nabla\_x\backslash mathbf\_\backslash ;d^\backslash mathbf\; =\; \backslash oint\_\backslash ,f(\backslash mathbf)\backslash ;d^\backslash mathbf.$$
By setting the function equal to one, it follows that the inward normal derivative of the indicator integrates to the numerical value of the surface area
The surface area of a solid object is a measure of the total area that the surface of the object occupies. The mathematical definition of surface area in the presence of curved surfaces is considerably more involved than the definition of a ...

.
See also

* Dirac measure * Laplacian of the indicator * Dirac delta *Extension (predicate logic)
The extension of a predicatea truth-valued functionis the set of tuples of values that, used as arguments, satisfy the predicate. Such a set of tuples is a relation.
Examples
For example, the statement "''d2'' is the weekday following ''d1''" ca ...

* Free variables and bound variables
In mathematics, and in other disciplines involving formal languages, including mathematical logic and computer science, a free variable is a notation (symbol) that specifies places in an expression where substitution may take place and is not ...

* Heaviside step function
The Heaviside step function, or the unit step function, usually denoted by or (but sometimes , or ), is a step function, named after Oliver Heaviside (1850–1925), the value of which is zero for negative arguments and one for positive argumen ...

* Iverson bracket
In mathematics, the Iverson bracket, named after Kenneth E. Iverson, is a notation that generalises the Kronecker delta, which is the Iverson bracket of the statement . It maps any statement to a function of the free variables in that statement ...

* Kronecker delta
In mathematics, the Kronecker delta (named after Leopold Kronecker) is a function of two variables, usually just non-negative integers. The function is 1 if the variables are equal, and 0 otherwise:
\delta_ = \begin
0 &\text i \neq j, \\
1 &\ ...

, a function that can be viewed as an indicator for the identity relation
* Macaulay brackets
* Multiset
In mathematics, a multiset (or bag, or mset) is a modification of the concept of a set that, unlike a set, allows for multiple instances for each of its elements. The number of instances given for each element is called the multiplicity of that ...

* Membership function
* Simple function
* Dummy variable (statistics)
In regression analysis, a dummy variable (also known as indicator variable or just dummy) is one that takes the values 0 or 1 to indicate the absence or presence of some categorical effect that may be expected to shift the outcome. For example, i ...

* Statistical classification
* Zero-one loss function
Notes

References

Sources

* * * * * * * {{refend Measure theory Integral calculus Real analysis Mathematical logic Basic concepts in set theory Probability theory Types of functions