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Statistical learning with R part 3: Classification

[This post is part of the Statistical learning with R series]

If you are here you probably have already unpacked the tgz file containing the demos and read the previous articles (part 1: Overfitting and part 2: Linear regression). If not, please check this page before starting.

Try to run classificationDemo.R: supposing your current working directory is the one where you unpacked the R files, type


The print.eval parameter is needed to show you the output of some commands such as summary in the context of the source command. Also remember that the demo generates some random data and before running it you should edit it and set up your own random seed.

This demo shows you two different classification experiments. In the former, you will run your own spam filter on the HP Labs SPAM E-mail Database. In the latter, you will use classification to recognise handwritten digits from the USPS ZIP code dataset (Le Cun et al., 1990). You can find more information on both of the datasets here, in the "Data" section.
After you run the full demo, try to answer the following questions:

  1. Look at the confusion matrix from logistic regression and interpret it. How many messages have been correctly classified as spam? How many as non-spam? How many false positives you have (e.g. messages classified as spam that were not)? And how many false negatives?
  2. The spam experiment runs by default with a given training set (provided by the dataset creators for an easier comparison with other methods). Try to change it with a random one (all the code is ready for you to use within the script). Does anything significative change if you do this? What if you change the default size of the set?
  3. If you think about the spam experiment as a *real* problem, you might not just settle with a solution which gives you the smallest error, but you'd probably want to also minimize the *false positives* (i.e. you do not want to classify regular messages as spam). Play with the threshold to reduce the number of false positives and discuss the results: how does the general error change? How does the amount of spam you cannot recognize anymore increase?
  4. In the digits classification experiment, what is the digit that is misclassified the most by QDA? Try to display some examples of this misclassified digit (all the code you need is available in the script)
  5. Compare the results given by the different classification approaches in *both experiments*. What are the best ones? Relying on the methods comparison in your textbook, can you provide hypotheses explaining this behaviour?
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