I. Diakonikolas and R. Servedio.

Preliminary version in

We prove two main results on how arbitrary linear threshold functions $f(x) = \sign(w\cdot x - \theta)$ over the $n$-dimensional Boolean hypercube can be approximated by simple threshold functions.

Our first result shows that every $n$-variable threshold function $f$ is $\eps$-close to a threshold function depending only on $\Inf(f)^2 \cdot \poly(1/\eps)$ many variables, where $\Inf(f)$ denotes the total influence or average sensitivity of $f.$ This is an exponential sharpening of Friedgut's well-known theorem \cite{Friedgut:98}, which states that every Boolean function $f$ is $\eps$-close to a function depending only on $2^{O(\Inf(f)/\eps)}$ many variables, for the case of threshold functions. We complement this upper bound by showing that $\Omega(\Inf(f)^2 + 1/\epsilon^2)$ many variables are required for $\epsilon$-approximating threshold functions.

Our second result is a proof that every $n$-variable threshold function is $\eps$-close to a threshold function with integer weights at most $\poly(n) \cdot 2^{\tilde{O}(1/\eps^{2/3})}.$ This is a significant improvement, in the dependence on the error parameter $\eps$, on an earlier result of \cite{Servedio:07cc} which gave a $\poly(n) \cdot 2^{\tilde{O}(1/\eps^{2})}$ bound. Our improvement is obtained via a new proof technique that uses strong anti-concentration bounds from probability theory. The new technique also gives a simple and modular proof of the original \cite{Servedio:07cc} result, and extends to give low-weight approximators for threshold functions under a range of probability distributions beyond just the uniform distribution.

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