Induction of Decision Trees
Reference: Bratko sections 18.5, 18.6
Image above only viewable during lecture
To describe an algorithm whose input is a collection of instances
and their correct classification and whose output is a decision tree
that can be used to classify each instance.
backed-up error estimate,
concept learning system (CLS),
expected error estimate,
Laplace error estimate,
pruning decision trees,
splitting criterion in ID3,
tree induction algorithm,
windowing in ID3
- What is a decision tree?
- Building a decision tree
- Which attribute should we split on?
- Information theory and the splitting criterion
- ID3 example & ID3 symbolic version
- ID3 enhancements: windowing
- Dealing with noisy data - expected error pruning
A decision tree is a tree in which each branch node represents a
choice between a number of alternatives, and each leaf node
represents a classification or decision.
For example, a decision tree might help a bank
decide whether a person should be offered a loan:
We wish to be able to induce a decision tree from a set of data
about instances together with the decisions or classifications for
size: small medium large
colour: red blue green
shape: brick wedge sphere pillar
medium blue brick
small red sphere
large green pillar
large green sphere
small red wedge
large red wedge
large red pillar
In this example, there are 7 instances, described in terms of three
features or attributes (size, colour, and shape), and the
instances are classified into two classes %% yes and
We shall now describe an algorithm for inducing a decision tree
from such a collection of classified instances.
- Originally termed CLS (Concept Learning System)
it has been successively enhanced.
- At the highest level of enhancement
that we shall describe in these notes, the system is known as ID3
- later versions include C4, C4.5 and See5/C5.0 (latest version release
seems to be 2.07, 2008).
Originator of the ID3 Algorithm
- ID3 and its successors have been developed by Ross Quinlan,
who discovered it while working with Earl Hunt in the 1970s. He
subsequently worked at Sydney Uni, Rand Corporation in California,
UTS, back to Sydney Uni, and several years at UNSW. He now runs his
own company, Rulequest
- You can find out more about ID3 and its later development
in C4.5 in his book:
Quinlan, J. R. C4.5: Programs for Machine Learning, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 1993,
or via links at
Photo of Ross Quinlan from his personal webpage at www.rulequest.com
Tree Induction Algorithm
- The algorithm operates over a set of training instances, C.
- If all instances in C are in class P, create a node P
and stop, otherwise select a feature or attribute F and create a decision node.
- Partition the training instances in C into subsets according to
the values of V.
- Apply the algorithm recursively to each of the subsets C.
This can easily be expressed as a nested if-statement
if (shape == wedge)
if (shape == brick)
if (shape == pillar)
if (colour == red)
if (colour == green)
if (shape == sphere)
- The order in which attributes are chosen determines how complicated
the tree is.
- ID3 uses information theory to determine the most informative
- A measure of the information content of a message is the inverse of the
probability of receiving the message:
information1(M) = 1/probability(M)
- Taking logs (base 2) makes information correspond to the number of
bits required to encode a message:
information(M) = –log2(probability(M))
- Information content of a message measures the
degree of surprise on receiving the message.
- Messages with a high probability are less
informative than low probability messages.
- Learning aims to predict accurately, i.e. reduce surprise.
- Probabilities are multiplied to get the probability of two
or more things both/all happening. Taking logarithms of the
probabilities allows information to be added instead of multiplied.
- Different messages have different probabilities of arrival.
- Overall level of uncertainty (termed entropy) is:
–Σi Pi log2Pi
- Frequency can be used as a probability estimate.
- E.g. if a node has 5 positive examples and 3 negative examples, the
estimated probability of positive is 5/8 = 0.625.
Information and Learning
- We can think of learning as building many-to-one mappings
between input and output.
- Learning tries to reduce the information content of the inputs
by mapping them to fewer outputs.
- Hence we try to minimise entropy.
- The simplest mapping is to map everything to one output.
- We seek a trade-off between accuracy and simplicity.
- Work out entropy based on distribution of classes.
- Trying splitting on each attribute.
- Work out expected information gain for each attribute.
- Choose best attribute.
- Initial decision tree is one node with all examples.
- There are 4 positive examples and 3 negative examples
- i.e. probability of positive is 4/7 = 0.57; probability of negative is
3/7 = 0.43
- Entropy is Eoverall = – (0.5715 × log20.5715) – (0.4285 × log20.4285) = 0.985
- Evaluate possible ways of splitting.
Example Part 2
- Try split on size which has three values:
large, medium and small.
- There are four instances with size = large.
- There are two large positives examples and two large negative examples.
- The probability of positive is 2/4 and so is the probabilty of negative
- The entropy is Elarge = – (2/4 × log2(2/4)) – (2/4 × log2(2/4)) = 1
Example Part 3
Example Part 4
- The expected information gain is: Eoverall – Esize = 0.985 – 0.857 = 0.128
- Now try splitting on colour and shape.
- Colour has an information gain of about 0.52
- Shape has an information gain of about 0.7
- Therefore split on shape.
- Repeat for all subtrees.
Summary of Splitting Criterion
Some people learn best from an example; others like to see the most general
formulation of an algorithm. If you are an "examples" person, don't let the
following subscript-studded presentation panic you.
Assume there are k classes C1,
... Ck (k = 2 in our example).
to decide which attribute to split on:
for each attribute that has not already been used
- Calculate the information gain that results from splitting on that attribute
- Split on the attribute that gives the greatest information gain.
Summary of Splitting Criterion 2
to calculate the information gain from splitting N instances on
- Calculate the entropy E of the current set of instances.
- for each value aj
of the attribute A(j = 1, ..., r)
- Suppose that there are
instances in class C1,
Jj,k instances in class
for a total of Jjinstances with
A = aj.
- The entropy Ej
associated with A =
- Now compute E –
- this is the information gain associated with a split on attribute A.
Summary of Splitting Criterion 3
to calculate the entropy E of the current set of instances
- Suppose that of the N instances in this node,
I1 are in class C1,
Ik are in class Ck,
Let p1 = I1/N,
pk = Ik/N,
- Then the initial entropy E is
- ID3 can deal with very large data sets by performing induction
on subsets or windows onto the data.
- Select a random subset of the whole set of training instances.
- Use the induction algorithm to form a rule to explain the current
- Scan through all of the training instances looking for exceptions
to the rule.
- Add the exceptions to the window
- Repeat steps 2 to 4 until there are no exceptions left.
- Frequently, training data contains "noise" - i.e. examples
which are misclassified, or where one or more of the attribute
values is wrong.
- In such cases, one is like to end up with a part of the decision
tree which considers say 100 examples, of which 99 are in
and the other is apparently in class
C2 (because it is
- If there are any unused attributes, we might be able to use
them to elaborate the tree to take care of this one case, but the
subtree we would be building would in fact be wrong, and
would likely misclassify real data.
- Thus, particularly if we know there is noise in the training
data, it may be wise to "prune" the decision tree to remove
nodes which, statistically speaking, seem likely to arise from
noise in the training data.
- A question to consider: How fiercely should we prune?
- Approximate expected error assuming that we prune at a particular
- Approximate backed-up error from children assuming we did not prune.
- If expected error is less than backed-up error, prune.
(Static) Expected Error
- If we prune a node, it becomes a leaf labelled C.
- What will be the expected classification error at this leaf?
|E(S) = ||N – n + k – 1|
|N + k|
(This is called the Laplace error estimate - it is based on the
assumption that the distribution of probabilities that examples will belong
to different classes is uniform.)
|S||is the set of examples in a node|
|k||is the number of classes|
|N||examples in S|
|n||out of N examples in S belong to the majority class in S|
E.g., if k = 2, and the examples in S
come out as [p, q], with p positive and q negative,
p + q = N,
then n = max(p, q).
- For a non-leaf node, let children of Node be Node1, Node2, etc
BackedUpError(Node) = Σi Pi×Error(Nodei)
- Probabilities can be estimated by relative frequencies of
attribute values in sets of examples that fall into child nodes.
Error(Node) = min(E(Node), BackedUpError(Node))
Error Calculation for Pruning Example
- Left child of b has class frequencies [3, 2]
|E = ||N – n + k – 1|| =
||5 – 3 + 2 – 1|| = 0.429
|N + k||5 + 2
- Right child has error of 0.333, calculated the same way
- Static error estimate E(b) is 0.375, again calculated
using the Laplace error estimate formula, with N=6, n=4, and k=2.
- Backed-up error is:
BackedUpError(b) = (5/6)×0.429 + (1/6)×0.333 = 0.413
(5/6 and 1/6 because there are 4+2=6 examples handled by node b, of
which 3+2=5 go to the left subtree and 1 to the right subtree.
- Since backed-up estimate of 0.413 is greater than static estimate
of 0.375, we prune the tree and use the static error of 0.375
|Summary: Induction of Decision Trees|
- The ID3 family of decision tree induction algorithms use information
theory to decide which attribute shared by a collection of instances to
split the data on next.
- Attributes are chosen repeatedly in this way until
a complete decision tree that classifies every input is obtained. If the data
is noisy, some of the original instances may be misclassified.
- It may be possible to prune the decision tree in order to reduce
classification errors in the presence of noisy data.
- The speed of this learning algorithm is reasonably high, as is the speed
of the resulting decision tree classification system.
- Generalisation ability can be reasonable too.
Copyright © Bill Wilson, 2012, except to the extent that other
sources are acknowledged.
Based on an earlier version by Claude Sammut, and material by Ivan Bratko.
Bill Wilson's contact info
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