Probabilistic Abstraction Hierarchies

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 14 (NIPS 2001)

Bibtex Metadata Paper


Eran Segal, Daphne Koller, Dirk Ormoneit


Many domains are naturally organized in an abstraction hierarchy or taxonomy, where the instances in “nearby” classes in the taxonomy are similar. In this pa- per, we provide a general probabilistic framework for clustering data into a set of classes organized as a taxonomy, where each class is associated with a prob- abilistic model from which the data was generated. The clustering algorithm simultaneously optimizes three things: the assignment of data instances to clus- ters, the models associated with the clusters, and the structure of the abstraction hierarchy. A unique feature of our approach is that it utilizes global optimization algorithms for both of the last two steps, reducing the sensitivity to noise and the propensity to local maxima that are characteristic of algorithms such as hierarchi- cal agglomerative clustering that only take local steps. We provide a theoretical analysis for our algorithm, showing that it converges to a local maximum of the joint likelihood of model and data. We present experimental results on synthetic data, and on real data in the domains of gene expression and text.