On the Statistical Consistency of Plug-in Classifiers for Non-decomposable Performance Measures

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

Bibtex Metadata Paper Reviews Supplemental


Harikrishna Narasimhan, Rohit Vaish, Shivani Agarwal


We study consistency properties of algorithms for non-decomposable performance measures that cannot be expressed as a sum of losses on individual data points, such as the F-measure used in text retrieval and several other performance measures used in class imbalanced settings. While there has been much work on designing algorithms for such performance measures, there is limited understanding of the theoretical properties of these algorithms. Recently, Ye et al. (2012) showed consistency results for two algorithms that optimize the F-measure, but their results apply only to an idealized setting, where precise knowledge of the underlying probability distribution (in the form of the true' posterior class probability) is available to a learning algorithm. In this work, we consider plug-in algorithms that learn a classifier by applying an empirically determined threshold to a suitableestimate' of the class probability, and provide a general methodology to show consistency of these methods for any non-decomposable measure that can be expressed as a continuous function of true positive rate (TPR) and true negative rate (TNR), and for which the Bayes optimal classifier is the class probability function thresholded suitably. We use this template to derive consistency results for plug-in algorithms for the F-measure and for the geometric mean of TPR and precision; to our knowledge, these are the first such results for these measures. In addition, for continuous distributions, we show consistency of plug-in algorithms for any performance measure that is a continuous and monotonically increasing function of TPR and TNR. Experimental results confirm our theoretical findings.