Knowledge and Information Systems

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 479–506 | Cite as

Data-dependent dissimilarity measure: an effective alternative to geometric distance measures

  • Sunil AryalEmail author
  • Kai Ming Ting
  • Takashi Washio
  • Gholamreza Haffari
Regular Paper


Nearest neighbor search is a core process in many data mining algorithms. Finding reliable closest matches of a test instance is still a challenging task as the effectiveness of many general-purpose distance measures such as \(\ell _p\)-norm decreases as the number of dimensions increases. Their performances vary significantly in different data distributions. This is mainly because they compute the distance between two instances solely based on their geometric positions in the feature space, and data distribution has no influence on the distance measure. This paper presents a simple data-dependent general-purpose dissimilarity measure called ‘\(m_p\)-dissimilarity’. Rather than relying on geometric distance, it measures the dissimilarity between two instances as a probability mass in a region that encloses the two instances in every dimension. It deems two instances in a sparse region to be more similar than two instances of equal inter-point geometric distance in a dense region. Our empirical results in k-NN classification and content-based multimedia information retrieval tasks show that the proposed \(m_p\)-dissimilarity measure produces better task-specific performance than existing widely used general-purpose distance measures such as \(\ell _p\)-norm and cosine distance across a wide range of moderate- to high-dimensional data sets with continuous only, discrete only, and mixed attributes.


Distance measure \(\ell _p\)-norm Cosine distance \(m_p\)-dissimilarity 



The preliminary version of this paper is published in Proceedings of the IEEE International conference on data mining (ICDM) 2014 [3]. We would like to thank anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. Kai Ming Ting is partially supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (AOARD) under Award Number FA2386-13-1-4043. Takashi Washio is partially supported by the AFOSR AOARD Award Number 15IOA008-154005 and JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 2524003.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sunil Aryal
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kai Ming Ting
    • 3
  • Takashi Washio
    • 4
  • Gholamreza Haffari
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Engineering and Information Technology, Faculty of Science and TechnologyFederation UniversityMount HelenAustralia
  2. 2.Clayton School of Information TechnologyMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.School of Engineering and Information TechnologyFederation UniversityChurchillAustralia
  4. 4.The Institute of Scientific and Industrial ResearchOsaka UniversityIbarakiJapan

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