A Comprehensive Guide To Boosting Machine Learning Algorithms

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With so many advancements in the field of healthcare, marketing, business and so on, it has become a need to develop more advanced and complex Machine Learning techniques. Boosting Machine Learning is one such technique that can be used to solve complex, data-driven, real-world problems. This blog is entirely focused on how Boosting Machine Learning works and how it can be implemented to increase the efficiency of Machine Learning models.

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Here’s a list of topics that will be covered in this blog:

  1. Why Boosting Is Used?
  2. What Is Boosting?
  3. How Boosting Algorithm Works?
  4. Types Of Boosting
  5. Demo

Why Is Boosting Used?

To solve convoluted problems we require more advanced techniques. Let’s suppose that on given a data set of images containing images of cats and dogs, you were asked to build a model that can classify these images into two separate classes. Like every other person, you will start by identifying the images by using some rules, like given below:

  1. The image has pointy ears: Cat
  2. The image has cat shaped eyes: Cat
  3. The image has bigger limbs: Dog
  4. The image has sharpened claws: Cat
  5. The image has a wider mouth structure: Dog

All these rules help us identify whether an image is a Dog or a cat, however, if we were to classify an image based on an individual (single) rule, the prediction would be flawed. Each of these rules, individually, are called weak learners because these rules are not strong enough to classify an image as a cat or dog.

Therefore, to make sure that our prediction is more accurate, we can combine the prediction from each of these weak learners by using the majority rule or weighted average. This makes a strong learner model.

In the above example, we have defined 5 weak learners and the majority of these rules (i.e. 3 out of 5 learners predict the image as a cat) gives us the prediction that the image is a cat. Therefore, our final output is a cat.

So this brings us to the question,

What Is Boosting?

Boosting is an ensemble learning technique that uses a set of Machine Learning algorithms to convert weak learner to strong learners in order to increase the accuracy of the model.

What Is Boosting – Boosting Machine Learning – Edureka

Like I mentioned Boosting is an ensemble learning method, but what exactly is ensemble learning?

What Is Ensemble In Machine Learning?

Ensemble learning is a method that is used to enhance the performance of Machine Learning model by combining several learners. When compared to a single model, this type of learning builds models with improved efficiency and accuracy. This is exactly why ensemble methods are used to win market leading competitions such as the Netflix recommendation competition, Kaggle competitions and so on.

What Is Ensemble Learning – Boosting Machine Learning – Edureka

Below I have also discussed the difference between Boosting and Bagging.

Boosting vs Bagging

Ensemble learning can be performed in two ways:

  1. Sequential ensemble, popularly known as boosting, here the weak learners are sequentially produced during the training phase. The performance of the model is improved by assigning a higher weightage to the previous, incorrectly classified samples. An example of boosting is the AdaBoost algorithm.
  2. Parallel ensemble, popularly known as bagging, here the weak learners are produced parallelly during the training phase. The performance of the model can be increased by parallelly training a number of weak learners on bootstrapped data sets. An example of bagging is the Random Forest algorithm.

In this blog, I’ll be focusing on the Boosting method, so in the below section we will understand how the boosting algorithm works.

How Boosting Algorithm Works?

The basic principle behind the working of the boosting algorithm is to generate multiple weak learners and combine their predictions to form one strong rule. These weak rules are generated by applying base Machine Learning algorithms on different distributions of the data set. These algorithms generate weak rules for each iteration. After multiple iterations, the weak learners are combined to form a strong learner that will predict a more accurate outcome.

How Does Boosting Algorithm Work – Boosting Machine Learning – Edureka

Here’s how the algorithm works:

Step 1: The base algorithm reads the data and assigns equal weight to each sample observation.

Step 2: False predictions made by the base learner are identified. In the next iteration, these false predictions are assigned to the next base learner with a higher weightage on these incorrect predictions.

Step 3: Repeat step 2 until the algorithm can correctly classify the output.

Therefore, the main aim of Boosting is to focus more on miss-classified predictions.

Now that we know how the boosting algorithm works, let’s understand the different types of boosting techniques.

Types Of Boosting

There are three main ways through which boosting can be carried out:

  1. Adaptive Boosting or AdaBoost
  2. Gradient Boosting
  3. XGBoost

I’ll be discussing the basics behind each of these types.

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Adaptive Boosting

  • AdaBoost is implemented by combining several weak learners into a single strong learner.
  • The weak learners in AdaBoost take into account a single input feature and draw out a single split decision tree called the decision stump. Each observation is weighed equally while drawing out the first decision stump.
  • The results from the first decision stump are analyzed and if any observations are wrongfully classified, they are assigned higher weights.
  • Post this, a new decision stump is drawn by considering the observations with higher weights as more significant.
  • Again if any observations are misclassified, they’re given higher weight and this process continues until all the observations fall into the right class.
  • Adaboost can be used for both classification and regression-based problems, however, it is more commonly used for classification purpose.

Gradient Boosting

Gradient Boosting is also based on sequential ensemble learning. Here the base learners are generated sequentially in such a way that the present base learner is always more effective than the previous one, i.e. the overall model improves sequentially with each iteration.

The difference in this type of boosting is that the weights for misclassified outcomes are not incremented, instead, Gradient Boosting method tries to optimize the loss function of the previous learner by adding a new model that adds weak learners in order to reduce the loss function.

The main idea here is to overcome the errors in the previous learner’s predictions. This type of boosting has three main components:

  1. Loss function that needs to be ameliorated.
  2. Weak learner for computing predictions and forming strong learners.
  3. An Additive Model that will regularize the loss function.

Like AdaBoost, Gradient Boosting can also be used for both classification and regression problems.


XGBoost is an advanced version of Gradient boosting method, it literally means eXtreme Gradient Boosting. XGBoost developed by Tianqi Chen, falls under the category of Distributed Machine Learning Community (DMLC).

The main aim of this algorithm is to increase the speed and efficiency of computation. The Gradient Descent Boosting algorithm computes the output at a slower rate since they sequentially analyze the data set, therefore XGBoost is used to boost or extremely boost the performance of the model.

XGBoost – Boosting Machine Learning – Edureka

XGBoost is designed to focus on computational speed and model efficiency. The main features provided by XGBoost are:

  • Parallelly creates decision trees.
  • Implementing distributed computing methods for evaluating large and complex models.
  • Using Out-of-Core Computing to analyze huge datasets.
  • Implementing cache optimization to make the best use of resources.

So these were the different types of Boosting Machine Learning algorithms. To make things interesting, in the below section we will run a demo to see how boosting algorithms can be implemented in Python.

Boosting Machine Learning In Python

A short disclaimer: I’ll be using Python to run this demo, so if you don’t know Python, you can go through the following blogs:

  1. Python Tutorial – A Complete Guide to Learn Python Programming
  2. How to Learn Python 3 from Scratch – A Beginners Guide
  3. Python Programming Language – Head start With Python Basics
  4. A Beginners Guide To Python Functions

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty and start coding.

Problem Statement: To study a mushroom data set and build a Machine Learning model that can classify a mushroom as either poisonous or not, by analyzing its features.

Data Set Description: This data set provides a detailed description of hypothetical samples in accordance with 23 species of gilled mushrooms. Each species is classified as either edible mushrooms or non-edible (poisonous) ones.

Logic: To build a Machine Learning model by using one of the Boosting algorithms in order to predict whether or not a mushroom is edible.

Step 1: Import the required packages

from sklearn.ensemble import AdaBoostClassifierfrom sklearn.preprocessing import LabelEncoderfrom sklearn.tree import DecisionTreeClassifierimport pandas as pd# Import train_test_split functionfrom sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split#Import scikit-learn metrics module for accuracy calculationfrom sklearn import metrics

Step 2: Import the data set

# Load in the datadataset = pd.read_csv('C://Users//NeelTemp//Desktop//mushroomsdataset.csv')

Step 3: Data Processing

#Define the column namesdataset.columns = ['target','cap-shape','cap-surface','cap-color','bruises','odor','gill-attachment','gill-spacing','gill-size','gill-color','stalk-shape','stalk-root','stalk-surface-above-ring','stalk-surface-below-ring','stalk-color-above-ring','stalk-color-below-ring','veil-type','veil-color','ring-number','ring-type','spore-print-color','population','habitat']for label in dataset.columns:dataset[label] = LabelEncoder().fit(dataset[label]).transform(dataset[label])#Display information about the data setprint(dataset.info())Int64Index: 8124 entries, 6074 to 686Data columns (total 23 columns):target 8124 non-null int32cap-shape 8124 non-null int32cap-surface 8124 non-null int32cap-color 8124 non-null int32bruises 8124 non-null int32odor 8124 non-null int32gill-attachment 8124 non-null int32gill-spacing 8124 non-null int32gill-size 8124 non-null int32gill-color 8124 non-null int32stalk-shape 8124 non-null int32stalk-root 8124 non-null int32stalk-surface-above-ring 8124 non-null int32stalk-surface-below-ring 8124 non-null int32stalk-color-above-ring 8124 non-null int32stalk-color-below-ring 8124 non-null int32veil-type 8124 non-null int32veil-color 8124 non-null int32ring-number 8124 non-null int32ring-type 8124 non-null int32spore-print-color 8124 non-null int32population 8124 non-null int32habitat 8124 non-null int32dtypes: int32(23)memory usage: 793.4 KB

Step 4: Data Splicing

X = dataset.drop(['target'], axis=1)Y = dataset['target']X_train, X_test, Y_train, Y_test = train_test_split(X, Y, test_size=0.3)

Step 5: Build the model

model = DecisionTreeClassifier(criterion='entropy', max_depth=1)AdaBoost = AdaBoostClassifier(base_estimator=model, n_estimators=400, learning_rate=1)

In the above code snippet, we have implemented the AdaBoost algorithm. The ‘AdaBoostClassifier’ function takes three important parameters:

  • base_estimator: The base estimator (weak learner) is Decision Trees by default
  • n_estimator: This field specifies the number of base learners to be used.
  • learning_rate: This field specifies the learning rate, which we have set to the default value, i.e. 1.
#Fit the model with training databoostmodel = AdaBoost.fit(X_train, Y_train)

Step 6: Model Evaluation

#Evaluate the accuracy of the modely_pred = boostmodel.predict(X_test)predictions = metrics.accuracy_score(Y_test, y_pred)#Calculating the accuracy in percentageprint('The accuracy is: ', predictions * 100, '%')The accuracy is: 100.0 %

We’ve received an accuracy of 100% which is perfect!

So with this, we come to an end of this Boosting Machine Learning Blog. If you wish to learn more about Machine Learning, you can give these blogs a read:

  1. What is Machine Learning? Machine Learning For Beginners
  2. Machine Learning Tutorial for Beginners
  3. Machine Learning Algorithms
  4. Top 10 Applications of Machine Learning: Machine Learning Applications in Daily Life

If you wish to enroll for a complete course on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Edureka has a specially curated Machine Learning Engineer Master Program that will make you proficient in techniques like Supervised Learning, Unsupervised Learning, and Natural Language Processing. It includes training on the latest advancements and technical approaches in Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning such as Deep Learning, Graphical Models and Reinforcement Learning.

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