, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 219-250

Functional Trees

Abstract

In the context of classification problems, algorithms that generate multivariate trees are able to explore multiple representation languages by using decision tests based on a combination of attributes. In the regression setting, model trees algorithms explore multiple representation languages but using linear models at leaf nodes. In this work we study the effects of using combinations of attributes at decision nodes, leaf nodes, or both nodes and leaves in regression and classification tree learning. In order to study the use of functional nodes at different places and for different types of modeling, we introduce a simple unifying framework for multivariate tree learning. This framework combines a univariate decision tree with a linear function by means of constructive induction. Decision trees derived from the framework are able to use decision nodes with multivariate tests, and leaf nodes that make predictions using linear functions. Multivariate decision nodes are built when growing the tree, while functional leaves are built when pruning the tree. We experimentally evaluate a univariate tree, a multivariate tree using linear combinations at inner and leaf nodes, and two simplified versions restricting linear combinations to inner nodes and leaves. The experimental evaluation shows that all functional trees variants exhibit similar performance, with advantages in different datasets. In this study there is a marginal advantage of the full model. These results lead us to study the role of functional leaves and nodes. We use the bias-variance decomposition of the error, cluster analysis, and learning curves as tools for analysis. We observe that in the datasets under study and for classification and regression, the use of multivariate decision nodes has more impact in the bias component of the error, while the use of multivariate decision leaves has more impact in the variance component.