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Ensemble diversity for class imbalance learning

Wang, Shuo (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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This thesis studies the diversity issue of classification ensembles for class imbalance learning problems. Class imbalance learning refers to learning from imbalanced data sets, in which some classes of examples (minority) are highly under-represented comparing to other classes (majority). The very skewed class distribution degrades the learning ability of many traditional machine learning methods, especially in the recognition of examples from the minority classes, which are often deemed to be more important and interesting. Although quite a few ensemble learning approaches have been proposed to handle the problem, no in-depth research exists to explain why and when they can be helpful. Our objectives are to understand how ensemble diversity affects the classification performance for a class imbalance problem according to single-class and overall performance measures, and to make best use of diversity to improve the performance.

As the first stage, we study the relationship between ensemble diversity and generalization performance for class imbalance problems. We investigate mathematical links between single-class performance and ensemble diversity. It is found that how the single-class measures change along with diversity falls into six different situations. These findings are then verified in class imbalance scenarios through empirical studies. The impact of diversity on overall performance is also investigated empirically. Strong correlations between diversity and the performance measures are found. Diversity shows a positive impact on the recognition of the minority class and benefits the overall performance of ensembles in class imbalance learning. Our results help to understand if and why ensemble diversity can help to deal with class imbalance problems.

Encouraged by the positive role of diversity in class imbalance learning, we then focus on a specific ensemble learning technique, the negative correlation learning (NCL) algorithm, which considers diversity explicitly when creating ensembles and has achieved great empirical success. We propose a new learning algorithm based on the idea of NCL, named AdaBoost.NC, for classification problems. An ``ambiguity" term decomposed from the 0-1 error function is introduced into the training framework of AdaBoost. It demonstrates superiority in both effectiveness and efficiency. Its good generalization performance is explained by theoretical and empirical evidences. It can be viewed as the first NCL algorithm specializing in classification problems.

Most existing ensemble methods for class imbalance problems suffer from the problems of overfitting and over-generalization. To improve this situation, we address the class imbalance issue by making use of ensemble diversity. We investigate the generalization ability of NCL algorithms, including AdaBoost.NC, to tackle two-class imbalance problems. We find that NCL methods integrated with random oversampling are effective in recognizing minority class examples without losing the overall performance, especially the AdaBoost.NC tree ensemble. This is achieved by providing smoother and less overfitting classification boundaries for the minority class. The results here show the usefulness of diversity and open up a novel way to deal with class imbalance problems.

Since the two-class imbalance is not the only scenario in real-world applications, multi-class imbalance problems deserve equal attention. To understand what problems multi-class can cause and how it affects the classification performance, we study the multi-class difficulty by analyzing the multi-minority and multi-majority cases respectively. Both lead to a significant performance reduction. The multi-majority case appears to be more harmful. The results reveal possible issues that a class imbalance learning technique could have when dealing with multi-class tasks. Following this part of analysis and the promising results of AdaBoost.NC on two-class imbalance problems, we apply AdaBoost.NC to a set of multi-class imbalance domains with the aim of solving them effectively and directly. Our method shows good generalization in minority classes and balances the performance across different classes well without using any class decomposition schemes.

Finally, we conclude this thesis with how the study has contributed to class imbalance learning and ensemble learning, and propose several possible directions for future research that may improve and extend this work.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Yao, Xin (1962-)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Engineering & Physical Sciences
Department:School of Computer Science
Keywords:class imbalance learning, ensemble learning, negative correlation learning, diversity
Subjects:QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1793
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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