Beta calibration: a well-founded and easily implemented improvement on logistic calibration for binary classifiers

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Meelis Kull, Telmo Silva Filho, Peter Flach ;
Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 54:623-631, 2017.

Abstract

For optimal decision making under variable class distributions and misclassification costs a classifier needs to produce well-calibrated estimates of the posterior probability. Isotonic calibration is a powerful non-parametric method that is however prone to overfitting on smaller datasets; hence a parametric method based on the logistic curve is commonly used. While logistic calibration is designed for normally distributed per-class scores, we demonstrate experimentally that many classifiers including Naive Bayes and Adaboost suffer from a particular distortion where these score distributions are heavily skewed. In such cases logistic calibration can easily yield probability estimates that are worse than the original scores. Moreover, the logistic curve family does not include the identity function, and hence logistic calibration can easily uncalibrate a perfectly calibrated classifier. In this paper we solve all these problems with a richer class of calibration maps based on the beta distribution. We derive the method from first principles and show that fitting it is as easy as fitting a logistic curve. Extensive experiments show that beta calibration is superior to logistic calibration for Naive Bayes and Adaboost.

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