An application of the minimal spanning tree approach to the cluster stability problem

Volkovich Z., Barzily Z., Weber G. -. , Toledano-Kitai D., Avros R.

CENTRAL EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF OPERATIONS RESEARCH, vol.20, no.1, pp.119-139, 2012 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 20 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s10100-010-0157-4
  • Page Numbers: pp.119-139
  • Keywords: Clustering, Cluster stability, Minimal spanning tree, Two sample test, Data mining, NUMBER, VALIDATION, TESTS


Among the areas of data and text mining which are employed today in OR, science, economy and technology, clustering theory serves as a preprocessing step in the data analyzing. An important component of clustering theory is determination of the true number of clusters. This problem has not been satisfactorily solved. In our paper, this problem is addressed by the cluster stability approach. For several possible numbers of clusters, we estimate the stability of the partitions obtained from clustering of samples. Partitions are considered consistent if their clusters are stable. Clusters validity is measured by the total number of edges, in the clusters' minimal spanning trees, connecting points from different samples. Actually, we use the Friedman and Rafsky two sample test statistic. The homogeneity hypothesis of well mingled samples, within the clusters, leads to an asymptotic normal distribution of the considered statistic. Resting upon this fact, the standard score of the mentioned edges quantity is set, and the partition quality is represented by the worst cluster, corresponding to the minimal standard score value. It is natural to expect that the true number of clusters can be characterized by the empirical distribution having the shortest left tail. The proposed methodology sequentially creates the described distribution and estimates its left-asymmetry. Several presented numerical experiments demonstrate the ability of the approach to detect the true number of clusters.