Commenced in January 2007
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A Distance Function for Data with Missing Values and Its Application

Authors: Loai AbdAllah, Ilan Shimshoni


Missing values in data are common in real world applications. Since the performance of many data mining algorithms depend critically on it being given a good metric over the input space, we decided in this paper to define a distance function for unlabeled datasets with missing values. We use the Bhattacharyya distance, which measures the similarity of two probability distributions, to define our new distance function. According to this distance, the distance between two points without missing attributes values is simply the Mahalanobis distance. When on the other hand there is a missing value of one of the coordinates, the distance is computed according to the distribution of the missing coordinate. Our distance is general and can be used as part of any algorithm that computes the distance between data points. Because its performance depends strongly on the chosen distance measure, we opted for the k nearest neighbor classifier to evaluate its ability to accurately reflect object similarity. We experimented on standard numerical datasets from the UCI repository from different fields. On these datasets we simulated missing values and compared the performance of the kNN classifier using our distance to other three basic methods. Our  experiments show that kNN using our distance function outperforms the kNN using other methods. Moreover, the runtime performance of our method is only slightly higher than the other methods.

Keywords: Missing values, Distance metric, Bhattacharyya distance.

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