, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 193-218

Comparing partitions

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Abstract

The problem of comparing two different partitions of a finite set of objects reappears continually in the clustering literature. We begin by reviewing a well-known measure of partition correspondence often attributed to Rand (1971), discuss the issue of correcting this index for chance, and note that a recent normalization strategy developed by Morey and Agresti (1984) and adopted by others (e.g., Miligan and Cooper 1985) is based on an incorrect assumption. Then, the general problem of comparing partitions is approached indirectly by assessing the congruence of two proximity matrices using a simple cross-product measure. They are generated from corresponding partitions using various scoring rules. Special cases derivable include traditionally familiar statistics and/or ones tailored to weight certain object pairs differentially. Finally, we propose a measure based on the comparison of object triples having the advantage of a probabilistic interpretation in addition to being corrected for chance (i.e., assuming a constant value under a reasonable null hypothesis) and bounded between ±1.

William H.E. Day was Acting Editor for the reviewing of this paper. We are grateful to him, Ove Frank, Charles Lewis, Glenn W. Milligan, Ivo Molenaar, Stanley S. Wasserman, and anonymous referees for helpful suggestions. Lynn Bilger and Tom Sharpe provided competent technical assistance. Partial support of Phipps Arabie's participation in this research was provided by NSF Grant SES 8310866 and ONR Contract N00014-83-K-0733.