I encountered a minimization problem involving the following function:


Here, $q>1$ and $0<p<1$. Naturally, each entry of $\mathbf{x}$ is greater than $0$.

I would like to determine the convexity (or concavity) of $f$, but I'm uncertain about how to do it. In my previous experience, I could demonstrate convexity by checking the definition or using rules of convexity, such as the convexity of the sum of two functions or certain composition rules. Or, I could prove the positive semi-definiteness of the Hessian. However, I haven't been able to apply any of these techniques to analyze $f$.


1 Answer 1


Assuming $q > 1, 0 <p < 1$, as per the question:

If $x$ is a nonnegative scalar, $f(\mathbf{x})=\|\mathbf{x}\|_q^p$ is concave, not convex.

For non-scalar $x$, $f(\mathbf{x})=\|\mathbf{x}\|_q^p$ is neither convex nor concave. For instance, for p = 0.5, q = 2, in 2D at $x = [1, 1]^T$, the Hessian of $f(x)$ has eigenvalues of 0.297 and -0.149; so the Hessian is indefinite there, and therefore $f(x)$ is neither convex nor concave.

  • $\begingroup$ What value of $p$ are you using in your example? For $p=1$ (granted just outside the specified scope) and $q=2$, $f$ would be the euclidean 2 norm. $\endgroup$
    – prubin
    Dec 8, 2023 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark L. Stone, would you please, where can we find a material to learn about the norms and their specifications? (I know there are some books, but I appreciate if it has been dense with focus on only norms). $\endgroup$
    – A.Omidi
    Dec 8, 2023 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ @ptubin Sorry. I forgot to include the value of p used in my example, which is 0.5. I just edited my answer to include that. It wasn't hard fr me to find a "counterexample". The set of values in my answer was the first ones I tried. I come up with such counterexamples to convexity or concavity very frequently over at ask.cvxr.com . $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2023 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ @A.Omidi Read and solve some exercises in at least the first 4 or 5 chapters of "Convex Optimization" by Boyd and Vandenberghe web.stanford.edu/~boyd/cvxbook to learn something about convex optimization, and determining convexity and concavity. You can pick up something about norms from Appendix A and supplement that with en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norm_(mathematics) . $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2023 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @prubin, with $q = 2$, and $x = [1,1]^T, p = 1-10^{-9}$ is not convex (nor concave). With other values of $x$, perhaps $p = 1 - \epsilon$ is sufficient for non-convexity. Even though q = 2 is not on the edge of convexity for a norm (which is at q = 1), there's no room to spare for allowing $0 < p < 1$ $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2023 at 21:27

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