DESPOTA: DEndrogram Slicing through a PemutatiOn Test Approach


Hierarchical clustering represents one of the most widespread analytical approaches to tackle classification problems mainly due to the visual powerfulness of the associated graphical representation, the dendrogram. That said, the requirement of appropriately choosing the number of clusters still represents the main difficulty for the final user. We introduce DESPOTA (DEndrogram Slicing through a PermutatiOn Test Approach), a novel approach exploiting permutation tests in order to automatically detect a partition among those embedded in a dendrogram. Unlike the traditional approach, DESPOTA includes in the search space also partitions not corresponding to horizontal cuts of the dendrogram. Applications on both real and syntethic datasets will show the effectiveness of our proposal.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dario Bruzzese.

Additional information

The authors wish to thank Professor Ibai Gurrutxaga and his colleagues for kindly providing the data and the R code used in their paper: this allowed us to make a worthwhile comparison of the two methods. The authors are also grateful to Professor Jaromir Antoch for helpful comments on a previous draft of the paper and the three anonymous referees for their valuable suggestions which helped us to improve the final version of this paper.

All computation and graphics were done in the R language (R Development Core Team 2010) using the basic packages and the additional cluster (Maechler et al. 2011), ggplot2 (Wickham 2009) and NbClust (Charrad et al. 2013) packages.

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Bruzzese, D., Vistocco, D. DESPOTA: DEndrogram Slicing through a PemutatiOn Test Approach. J Classif 32, 285–304 (2015).

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  • Hierarchical clustering
  • Cluster detection
  • Permutation tests