A Computational Exploration of Emerging Methods of Variable Importance Estimation

5 Aug 2022  ·  Louis Mozart Kamdem, Ernest Fokoue ·

Estimating the importance of variables is an essential task in modern machine learning. This help to evaluate the goodness of a feature in a given model. Several techniques for estimating the importance of variables have been developed during the last decade. In this paper, we proposed a computational and theoretical exploration of the emerging methods of variable importance estimation, namely: Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO), Support Vector Machine (SVM), the Predictive Error Function (PERF), Random Forest (RF), and Extreme Gradient Boosting (XGBOOST) that were tested on different kinds of real-life and simulated data. All these methods can handle both regression and classification tasks seamlessly but all fail when it comes to dealing with data containing missing values. The implementation has shown that PERF has the best performance in the case of highly correlated data closely followed by RF. PERF and XGBOOST are "data-hungry" methods, they had the worst performance on small data sizes but they are the fastest when it comes to the execution time. SVM is the most appropriate when many redundant features are in the dataset. A surplus with the PERF is its natural cut-off at zero helping to separate positive and negative scores with all positive scores indicating essential and significant features while the negatives score indicates useless features. RF and LASSO are very versatile in a way that they can be used in almost all situations despite they are not giving the best results.

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