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Hierarchical Clustering: Objective Functions and Algorithms

Abstract · Apr 7, 2017 09:14 ·

clustering hierarchical dasgupta approximation cost dissimilarity sparsest cs-ds cs-lg

Arxiv Abstract

  • Vincent Cohen-Addad
  • Varun Kanade
  • Frederik Mallmann-Trenn
  • Claire Mathieu

Hierarchical clustering is a recursive partitioning of a dataset into clusters at an increasingly finer granularity. Motivated by the fact that most work on hierarchical clustering was based on providing algorithms, rather than optimizing a specific objective, Dasgupta framed similarity-based hierarchical clustering as a combinatorial optimization problem, where a good' hierarchical clustering is one that minimizes some cost function. He showed that this cost function has certain desirable properties. We take an axiomatic approach to defininggood’ objective functions for both similarity and dissimilarity-based hierarchical clustering. We characterize a set of “admissible” objective functions (that includes Dasgupta’s one) that have the property that when the input admits a natural' hierarchical clustering, it has an optimal value. Equipped with a suitable objective function, we analyze the performance of practical algorithms, as well as develop better algorithms. For similarity-based hierarchical clustering, Dasgupta showed that the divisive sparsest-cut approach achieves an $O(\log^{3/2} n)$-approximation. We give a refined analysis of the algorithm and show that it in fact achieves an $O(\sqrt{\log n})$-approx. (Charikar and Chatziafratis independently proved that it is a $O(\sqrt{\log n})$-approx.). This improves upon the LP-based $O(\log n)$-approx. of Roy and Pokutta. For dissimilarity-based hierarchical clustering, we show that the classic average-linkage algorithm gives a factor 2 approx., and provide a simple and better algorithm that gives a factor 3/2 approx.. Finally, we considerbeyond-worst-case’ scenario through a generalisation of the stochastic block model for hierarchical clustering. We show that Dasgupta’s cost function has desirable properties for these inputs and we provide a simple 1 + o(1)-approximation in this setting.

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