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Probability mass functions and probability density functions
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Probability mass functions and probability density functions

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  • 1. Probability Mass Functions and Probability Density Functions The probability mass function or pmf, fX (x) of a discrete random vari-able X is given by fX (x) =P(X = x) for all x. The probability density function or pdf, fX (x) of a continuous random xvariable X is the function that satisfies FX (x) = −∞ fX (t)∂t for all x A widely accepted convention which we will adopt, is to use an uppercaseletter for the cdf and a lowercase letter for the pmf or pdf. We must be a little more careful in our definition of a pdf in the continuouscase. If we try to naively calculate P(X = x) for a continuous random variablewe get the following: Since {X = x} ⊂ {x − < X ≤ x} for any > 0, we have from Theorem2(3), P{X = x} ≤P{x − < X ≤ x} = FX (x) − FX (x − ) for any > 0. Therefore, 0 ≤ P{X = x} ≤ lim [FX (x) − FX (x − )] = 0 by the continuity →0of FX . A note on notation: The expression “X has a distribution given by FX (x)”is abbreviated symbolically by “X ∼ FX (x),” where we read they symbol “∼”as is distributed as” or “follows”. Theorem 5: A function fX (x) is a pdf or pmf of a random variable X ifand only if: (1) fX (x) ≥ 0 for all x ∞ (2) −∞ fX (x)∂x = 1 (pdf) and X f (x) = 1 (pmf) x 1