Threshold Choice Methods: the Missing Link

José Hernández-Orallo, Peter Flach, Cèsar Ferri

Research output: Working paper


Many performance metrics have been introduced for the evaluation of classification performance, with different origins and niches of application: accuracy, macro-accuracy, area under the ROC curve, the ROC convex hull, the absolute error, and the Brier score (with its decomposition into refinement and calibration). One way of understanding the relation among some of these metrics is the use of variable operating conditions (either in the form of misclassification costs or class proportions). Thus, a metric may correspond to some expected loss over a range of operating conditions. One dimension for the analysis has been precisely the distribution we take for this range of operating conditions, leading to some important connections in the area of proper scoring rules. However, we show that there is another dimension which has not received attention in the analysis of performance metrics. This new dimension is given by the decision rule, which is typically implemented as a threshold choice method when using scoring models. In this paper, we explore many old and new threshold choice methods: fixed, score-uniform, score-driven, rate-driven and optimal, among others. By calculating the loss of these methods for a uniform range of operating conditions we get the 0-1 loss, the absolute error, the Brier score (mean squared error), the AUC and the refinement loss respectively. This provides a comprehensive view of performance metrics as well as a systematic approach to loss minimisation, namely: take a model, apply several threshold choice methods consistent with the information which is (and will be) available about the operating condition, and compare their expected losses. In order to assist in this procedure we also derive several connections between the aforementioned performance metrics, and we highlight the role of calibration in choosing the threshold choice method.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2011


  • cs.AI


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