Improving cluster analysis with automatic variable selection based on trees
Orr, Anton D.
Buttrey, Samuel E.
Whitaker, Lyn R.
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Clustering is an algorithmic technique that aims to group similar objects together in order to give users better understanding of the underlying structure of their data. It can be thought of as a two-step process. The first step is to measure the distances among the objects to determine how dissimilar they are. The second, clustering, step takes the dissimilarity measurements and assigns each object to a cluster. We examine three distance measures proposed by Buttrey at the Joint Statistical Meeting in Seattle, August 2006 based on classification and regression trees to address problems with determining dissimilarity. Current algorithms do not simultaneously address the issues of automatic variable selection, independence from variable scaling, resistance to monotonic transformation and datasets of mixed variable types. These "tree distances" are compared with an existing dissimilarity algorithm and two newer methods using four well-known datasets. These datasets contain numeric, categorical and mixed variable types. In addition, noise variables are added to test the ability of each algorithm to automatically select important variables. The tree distances offer much improvement for the problems they aimed to address, performing well against competitors amongst numerical datasets, and outperforming in the cases of categorical and mixed variable type datasets.
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