Bagging (Voting, Averaging)

The concept of bagging (voting for classification, averaging for regression-type problems with continuous dependent variables of interest) applies to the area of predictive data mining, to combine the predicted classifications (prediction) from multiple models, or from the same type of model for different learning data. It is also used to address the inherent instability of results when applying complex models to relatively small data sets.

Suppose your data mining task is to build a model for predictive classification, and the data set from which to train the model (learning data set, which contains observed classifications) is relatively small. You could repeatedly sub-sample (with replacement) from the data set and apply, for example, a tree classifier (e.g.,  C&RT and CHAID) to the successive samples. In practice, very different trees will often be grown for the different samples, illustrating the instability of models often evident with small data sets. One method of deriving a single prediction (for new observations) is to use all trees found in the different samples, and to apply some simple voting: The final classification is the one most often predicted by the different trees. Note that some weighted combination of predictions (weighted vote, weighted average) is also possible, and commonly used. A sophisticated (machine learning) algorithm for generating weights for weighted prediction or voting is the Boosting procedure. See also Data Mining.