Deep differentiable forest with sparse attention for the tabular data

29 Feb 2020  ·  Yingshi Chen ·

We present a general architecture of deep differentiable forest and its sparse attention mechanism. The differentiable forest has the advantages of both trees and neural networks. Its structure is a simple binary tree, easy to use and understand. It has full differentiability and all variables are learnable parameters. We would train it by the gradient-based optimization method, which shows great power in the training of deep CNN. We find and analyze the attention mechanism in the differentiable forest. That is, each decision depends on only a few important features, and others are irrelevant. The attention is always sparse. Based on this observation, we improve its sparsity by data-aware initialization. We use the attribute importance to initialize the attention weight. Then the learned weight is much sparse than that from random initialization. Our experiment on some large tabular dataset shows differentiable forest has higher accuracy than GBDT, which is the state of art algorithm for tabular datasets. The source codes are available at

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