ID3's information gain heuristic is well-known to be biased towards multi-valued attributes. This bias is only partially compensated by the gain ratio used in C4.5. Several other alternatives have been proposed and are examined here (distance, orthogonality, a Beta function, and two chi-squared tests). Gain ratio and orthogonality are strongly correlated, and all of these metrics are biased towards splits with one or more small expected values, under circumstances where the split likely ocurred by chance. Both classical and Bayesian statistics lead to the multiple hypergeometric distribution as the exact posterior probability of the null hypothesis. Both gain and the chi-squared tests are shown to arise in asymptotic approximations to the hypergeometric, revealing similar criteria for admissibility and showing the nature of their biases. Previous failures to find admissible stopping rules in CART and IDS are traced to coupling these biased approximations with one another or with arbitrary thresholds; problems which are overcome by the hypergeometric. Empirical results show that hypergeometric pre-pruning should be done, as trees pruned in this way are more practical, simpler, more efficient, and generally no less accurate than unpruned or post-pruned trees.

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Various factors affecting decision tree learning time are explored. The factors which consistently affect accuracy are those which directly or indirectly (as in the handling of continuous attributes) allow a greater number and variety of potential trees to be explored. Other factors, such as pruning and choice of heuristics, generally have little effect on accuracy, but significantly affect learning time. We prove that the time complexity of induction and post-processing is exponential in tree height in the worst case and, under fairly general conditions, in the average case. This puts a premium on designs which tend to produce shallower trees (e.g., multi-way rather than binary splits, and heuristics which prefer more balanced splits). Simple pruning is linear in tree height, contrasted to the exponential growth of more complex operations. The key factor influencing whether simple pruning will suffice is that the split selection and pruning heuristics should be the same and unbiased. The information gain and x^2 heuristics are biased towards unbalanced splits, and neither is an admissible test for pruning. Empirical results show that the hypergeometric function can be used for both split selection and pruning, and that the resulting trees are simpler, more quickly learned, and no less accurate than the trees resulting from other heuristics and more complex post-processing.

Several methods (independent subsamples, leave-one-out, cross-validation, and bootstrapping) have been proposed for estimating the error rates of classifiers. The rationale behind the various estimators and the causes ofthe sometimes conflicting claims regarding their bias and precision are explored in this paper. The biases and variances of each of the estimators are examined empirically. Cross-validation, 10-fold or greater, seems to be the best approach, the other methods are biased, have poorer precision, or are inconsistent. (Though unbiased for linear discriminant classifiers, the 632b bootstrap estimator is biased for nearest neighbors classifiers, more so for single nearest neighbor than for three nearest neighbors. The 632b estimator is also biased for CART-style decision trees. Weiss' LOO* estimator is unbiased and has better precision than cross-validation for discriminant and nearest neighbors classifiers, but its lack of bias and improved precision for those classifiers do not carry over to decision trees for nominal attributes.

Several methods (independent subsamples, leave-one-out, cross-validation, and bootstrapping) have been proposed for estimating the error rates of classifiers. The rationale behind the various estimators and the causes of the sometimes conflicting claims regarding their bias and precision are explored in this paper. The biases and variances of each of the estimators are examined empirically. Cross-validation, 10-fold or greater, seems to be the best approach, the other methods are biased, have poorer precision, or are inconsistent. (Though unbiased for linear discriminant classifiers, the 632b bootstrap estimator isbiased for nearest neighbors classifiers, more so for single nearest neighbor than for three nearest neighbors. The 632b estimator is also biased for CART-style decision trees. Weiss LOO* estimator is unbiased and has better precision than cross-validation for discriminant and nearest neighbors classifiers, but its lack of bias and improved precision for those classifiers do not carry over to decision trees for nominal attributes.

Several techniques for estimating the range of uncertainty of estimated error rates and for estimating the significance of observed differences in error rates are explored in this paper. Textbook formulas which assume a large test set (i.e., a normal distribution) are commonly used to approximate the confidence limits of error rates or as an approximate significance test for comparing error rates. Expressions for determining more exact limits and significance levels for small samples are given here, and criteria are also given for determining when these more exact methods should be used. The assumed normal distribution gives a poor approximation to the confidence interval in most cases, but is usually useful for significance tests when the proper mean and variance expressions are used. A commonly used ±2σ significance test uses an improper expression for σ, which is too low and leads to a high likelihood of Type I errors. Common machine learning methods for estimating significance from observations on a single sample may be unreliable.

Several methods (independent subsamples, cross-validation, and bootstrapping) have been proposed for estimating the error rates of classifiers. The power of the various estimators (i.e., their variances and confidence limits, their ability to test the null hypothesis) has received relatively little attention in the machine learning literature. The biases and variances of each of the estimators are examined empirically. Cross-validation, 10-fold or greater, is seen to be superior, the other methods are biased, have poorer variance, or are prohibitively time-consuming. Textbook formulas which assume a large test set (i.e., a normal distribution) are commonly used to approximate the confidence limits of error rates or as an approximate significance test for comparing error rates. Expressions for determining more exact limits and significance levels for small samples are given here, and criteria are also given for determining when these more exact methods should be used. The normal distribution is a poor approximation to the confidence interval in most cases, but is usually useful for significance tests when the proper mean and variance expressions are used. A commonly used ±2𝝈 test uses an improper expression for 𝝈, which is too low and leads to a high likelihood of Type I errors.

Several techniques for estimating the range of uncertainty of estimated error rates and for estimating the significance of observed differences in error rates are explored in this paper. Textbook formulas which assume a large test set (i.e., a normal distribution) are commonly used to approximate the confidence limits of error rates or as an approximate significance test for comparing error rates. Expressions for determining more exact limits and significance levels for small samples are given here, and criteria are also given for determining when these more exact methods should be used. The assumed normal distribution gives a poor approximation to the confidence interval in most cases, but is usually useful for significance tests when the proper mean and variance expressions are used. A commonly used ±2