Computing Random Forests Variable Importance Measures (VIM) on Mixed Numerical and Categorical Data

University essay from KTH/Skolan för datavetenskap och kommunikation (CSC)

Abstract: The Random Forest model is commonly used as a predictor function and the model have been proven useful in a variety of applications. Their popularity stems from the combination of providing high prediction accuracy, their ability to model high dimensional complex data, and their applicability under predictor correlations. This report investigates the random forest variable importance measure (VIM) as a means to find a ranking of important variables. The robustness of the VIM under imputation of categorical noise, and the capability to differentiate informative predictors from non-informative variables is investigated. The selection of variables may improve robustness of the predictor, improve the prediction accuracy, reduce computational time, and may serve as a exploratory data analysis tool. In addition the partial dependency plot obtained from the random forest model is examined as a means to find underlying relations in a non-linear simulation study.

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