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A decision tree is an algorithm for prediction implemented in machine learning that learns and generates predictions based on attributes in a dataset. Internal nodes follow a dataset’s features, branches show choices, and leaves represent outcomes in this tree-like structure. One of the most frequently used algorithms for machine learning, decision trees, can be utilized for classification and regression use cases.
This blog will explore the decision tree algorithm, its variations, and its operation. We will also go via several real-world uses for decision trees and their advantages and disadvantages.
Types of Decision Trees
There are two types of decision trees:
- Classification Trees – Classification trees are used when the target variable is categorical. A precise classification of newly acquired information into one of the already established groups is the primary objective of a classification tree. A classification tree can be used to determine the probability of remaining around based on their characteristics and behavioral information.
- Regression Trees – When the target variable is a continuous variable, regression trees are applied. Regression tree structures are utilized to build models capable of accurately predicting the probable outcome of a continuous variable. A regression tree, for example, can be used to forecast a house’s price based on location, size, number of rooms, etc.
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How does Decision Tree Work?
The Decision Tree algorithm splits the dataset repeatedly into smaller subgroups according to the value of a selected feature and continues doing this until a stopping requirement is fulfilled.
The algorithm selects the most suitable characteristic to divide the data into two categories, starting with the complete dataset. The best characteristic is the one that enhances information gain or reduces dataset impurity.
After the dataset has been divided based on a specific characteristic, the reduction in entropy or unpredictability is measured as information gain. An indicator of the unpredictable nature or disorder in a dataset is entropy. The entropy reduces with increasing dataset order, and vice versa.
The dataset is divided into two subsets according to the value of the most promising feature once it has been selected. Every subgroup depends on the above procedure being repeated until a halting requirement is fulfilled. The stopping requirement might include the smallest number of samples needed to divide a node, the minimum number of samples needed to be at a leaf node, or the maximum depth of the tree.
The target variable’s mean value or the majority class is assigned as the predicted value for that subset at each leaf node.
Advantages of Decision Trees
- Simple to Interpret – Decision trees are simple to interpret. When presented as a decision tree, it is simpler for non-technical individuals to comprehend the reasoning behind the model and the decision-making process.
- Handles Relationships that are not linear – Decision trees can handle relationships that are not linear between features and the target variable. This is because they can capture non-linear interactions by dividing the data into subgroups based on the value of a feature.
- Can handle Missing values – Decision trees can handle missing data by simply leaving the missing values out of the partitioning procedure. In contrast, several machine learning algorithms manage missing variables by imputation or other sophisticated techniques.
- Can Handle Both Categorical and Continuous Variables – Decision trees can handle categorical and continuous variables as input features. Compared to other machine learning algorithms, which can only handle one input feature type, they are more flexible.
- Less Data Preprocessing Needed – Compared to other machine learning methods, decision trees need less data to be processed. They don’t require special handling to deal with noisy data, irrelevant features, and outliers.
Disadvantages of Decision Trees
- Overfitting – Decision trees are vulnerable to overfitting, particularly when their depth is excessive, or their stopping criterion is unsuitable. When the model learns the noise in the training data rather than the underlying pattern, overfitting takes place. On new data, this may lead to subpar generalization performance.
- Instability – Decision trees are unstable, which means that even minor adjustments to the training set can greatly impact the tree’s structure. As a result, various sampling of the same dataset may yield different findings.
- Bias – Decision trees may prefer features with more levels or categories. This is so that a biased model can be created because the algorithm has the propensity to split on certain features first.
- Greedy Algorithm – The decision tree algorithm is a greedy algorithm, meaning it only considers the optimal local solution while making decisions at each step. This may lead to a model that is not ideal.
- Difficult to Balance Classes – Decision trees can have trouble with imbalanced classes, which occur when one class has significantly less samples than the others. This is so the algorithm doesn’t disregard the minority class while favouring the majority class.
Practical Applications of Decision Trees
- Customer Churn Prediction – Decision trees can forecast client attrition based on demographic and behavioral information. Using this information, firms can spot clients likely to leave soon and take proactive steps to keep them.
- Credit Risk Assessment – Decision tree models can be utilized to assess a loan applicant’s credit risk according to their financial background and credit score. This could make it simpler for lenders to determine whether to accept or reject a loan application.
- Medical Diagnosis – Decision trees can be used to identify medical disorders depending on the symptoms and medical background of the patient. This can aid medical professionals in providing more precise diagnoses and treatment recommendations.
- Fraud Detection – Decision trees can be used for fraud detection by analyzing a transaction’s past transactions and current behavior. This can aid financial organizations in reducing fraud-related financial losses.
- Image Classification – Tasks requiring image classification, such as identifying objects in photos or spotting facial traits in photographs, can be accomplished using decision trees. This benefits a few areas, including security, transportation, and entertainment.
Compared to other machine learning methods, they require less data processing, can manage non-linear relationships, can handle missing values, and are simple to comprehend and analyze. But they can be biased, prone to overfitting, and hard to balance across classes.
Customers churn prediction, credit risk assessment, medical diagnosis, fraud detection, and picture categorization are just a few practical uses for decision trees. The quality and quantity of the training data, the feature selection, and the suitable selection of hyperparameters all affect how well decision trees perform as machine learning algorithms.
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Drop a query if you have any questions regarding Decision Tree, I will get back to you quickly.
1. What is a decision tree in machine learning?
ANS: – A decision tree is a machine learning algorithm that generates predictions based on attributes in a dataset. It is represented by a tree-like structure in which internal nodes follow the dataset’s features, branches show choices, and leaves represent outcomes. Decision trees can be used for both classification and regression use cases.
2. What are the types of decision trees?
ANS: – There are two types of decision trees: classification trees and regression trees. Classification trees are used when the target variable is categorical, and precise classification of newly acquired information into one of the already established groups is the primary objective. Regression trees are applied when the target variable is a continuous variable, and the goal is to build models that accurately predict the probable outcome of a continuous variable.
3. What are the practical applications of decision trees?
ANS: – Decision trees can be used for customer churn prediction, credit risk assessment, medical diagnosis, and fraud detection.
WRITTEN BY Vinay Lanjewar