An urn model for majority voting in classification ensembles

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

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Victor Soto, Alberto Suárez, Gonzalo Martinez-Muñoz


In this work we analyze the class prediction of parallel randomized ensembles by majority voting as an urn model. For a given test instance, the ensemble can be viewed as an urn of marbles of different colors. A marble represents an individual classifier. Its color represents the class label prediction of the corresponding classifier. The sequential querying of classifiers in the ensemble can be seen as draws without replacement from the urn. An analysis of this classical urn model based on the hypergeometric distribution makes it possible to estimate the confidence on the outcome of majority voting when only a fraction of the individual predictions is known. These estimates can be used to speed up the prediction by the ensemble. Specifically, the aggregation of votes can be halted when the confidence in the final prediction is sufficiently high. If one assumes a uniform prior for the distribution of possible votes the analysis is shown to be equivalent to a previous one based on Dirichlet distributions. The advantage of the current approach is that prior knowledge on the possible vote outcomes can be readily incorporated in a Bayesian framework. We show how incorporating this type of problem-specific knowledge into the statistical analysis of majority voting leads to faster classification by the ensemble and allows us to estimate the expected average speed-up beforehand.