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AdaBoost in Machine Learning

AdaBoost in Machine Learning

Explore AdaBoost, a machine learning marvel. In this blog, learn how AdaBoost enhances model accuracy and, uncovers the advantages that demonstrate amplified performance. 

Table of Content

Watch this AdaBoost Python Tutorial Video for Beginners:

Definition of AdaBoost

AdaBoost, short for Adaptive Boosting is a machine learning algorithm used for classification and regression tasks. Its primary purpose is to improve the accuracy of weak machine learning models by combining their predictions in an adaptive and weighted manner. Adaboost trains other simple models. It puts extra weight on the data points where the first model got it wrong. It keeps doing this, creating more and more models, each focusing on hard-to-classify examples. These models work together, combining their individual strengths to make a final decision. It is like getting advice from different experts, where each expert is an individual model.

In simple terms, Adaboost is a smart algorithm that combines the wisdom of multiple simple models to make a powerful decision-maker, improving its ability to classify things correctly. It is a bit like having a team of experts who learn from their mistakes and work together to solve a problem.

AdaBoost is used for various tasks, such as face detection, spam email classification, and more. It can turn a group of individually weak models into a strong and accurate ensemble, which makes it a valuable asset in the machine learning toolkit.

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Ensemble Learning

Ensemble learning in machine learning combines various models to improve predictions. Using methods such as bagging, boosting, or stacking, it strengthens each model uniquely and corrects errors. By merging predictions from these models, ensemble learning provides superior and comprehensive solutions, particularly proficient at solving complex problems. Its effectiveness surpasses individual methods, demonstrating the power of collaborative predictive techniques in machine learning, where combining diverse models results in more accurate and reliable outcomes.

How Does AdaBoost Work?

Boosting is a technique that creates a set of decision trees during the training process. In this method, the first decision tree is created, and the records it misclassifies are given priority. Only these misclassified records are considered for the next model. This process continues until we reach a predetermined number of base learners. It’s essential to note that boosting allows for the repetition of records, and this principle applies to all boosting techniques.

When using AdaBoost, the algorithm creates a set of models, just like in random forests. However, the critical difference is that AdaBoost models consist of nodes with only two leaves, known as “stumps.” These stumps are considered weak learners, and AdaBoost prefers them. The order in which stumps are created is vital in AdaBoost because the error of the first stump influences how subsequent stumps are built.

Here is a step-by-step guide to use AdaBoost in Machine Learning:

Step 1 : Assigning Weights

This dataset contains information about applicants, such as their income, loan amount requested, years at their current job, and whether their credit was approved (‘Yes’ or ‘No’).

The illustration below depicts an example of the AdaBoost algorithm using the provided dataset. This particular dataset involves a classification task with a binary target column. Initially, the data points will undergo weighting where, initially, all weights assigned to these points will be identical.

Assigning Weights

The sample weight is calculated as:

Sample weight is calculated as

Given that N represents the total number of data points, in this case, with 6 data points, the assigned sample weights will be 1/6.

Step 2 : Classify the samples

Initially, we assess the effectiveness of “Gender” in classifying the samples and then explore how the variables “Loan Amount” and “Income” perform in sample classification. For each feature, we will construct a decision stump and determine the Gini Index for each tree.

The initial stump will be chosen based on the tree with the lowest Gini Index. In our dataset, “Gender” demonstrates the lowest Gini Index, so we will consider it as our first stump.

Step 3 : Calculate the influence

Now we will calculate the Influence for this classifier in classifying the data points using the formula:

Calculate the influence
Calculate the influence

The total error consistently ranges between 0 and 1. A value of 0 signifies a perfect stump, while a value of 1 indicates a poor or ineffective stump.

Alpha vs Error Rate Graph

Step 4 : Calculate TE and Performance

You might wonder why calculating the TE (Total Error) and performance of a stump is important. If the same weights persist for the subsequent model, it will lead to outcomes as the initial model.

Misjudgments receive added weight, while correct predictions’ weight diminishes. This weight update ensures that the next model prioritizes points with higher weights. Determining the classifier’s significance and total error leads us to the final step: updating weights. 

The following formula guides this weight adjustment:

New Sample weight

When a sample is correctly classified, the value of, let’s say, “alpha” turns negative. Conversely, when a sample is misclassified, the value of “alpha” becomes positive.

In this case, among five samples, four are correctly classified, and one is wrong. For that misclassified datapoint, the sample weight is 1/4, and the “alpha” or performance of the Gender stump is 0.235.

New weights for correctly classified samples can be calculated as:

New Sample Weight Calculation

The revised weights for incorrectly classified samples will be:

revised weights for incorrectly classified samples

Observe the alpha’s sign as I input values; when the data point is correctly classified, the alpha becomes negative. Consequently, this reduces the sample weight from 0.25 to 0.2. Conversely, when there’s a misclassification, the alpha turns positive, leading to an increase in the sample weight from 0.2 to 0.315.

Sample Weight

We are aware that the total sum of sample weights should equal 1. However, when we add up all the new sample weights, we find it’s 0.915. To adjust and ensure this total equals 1, we normalize the weights. This involves dividing all the weights by the sum of the updated weights (0.915). Upon normalizing the sample weights, we make the sum nearly equals to 1.

New Sample Weight Calculation

Step 5 : Decrease Errors

Next, to assess the reduction in errors, we will create a fresh dataset. To achieve this, we will organize our data points into different groups or buckets.

Decrease Errors

Step 6 : New Dataset

We’re nearing completion. The algorithm proceeds by picking random numbers within the range of 0-1. Due to the higher sample weights of incorrectly classified records, the likelihood of selecting those records becomes notably higher.

Let’s consider the 5 random numbers obtained by the algorithm: 0.45, 0.32, 0.92, 0.51, 0.66.

We’ll now determine the positions of these random numbers within the range and, based on their placements, generate our new dataset as demonstrated below.

New Dataset

Step 7 : Repeat previous Steps

This now becomes our updated dataset, initiating a repetition of the preceding steps:

1. Equally allocate weights to all data points.
2. Identify the stump that best classifies the new set by computing their Gini Index and choosing the one with the lowest Gini index.
3. Compute the “Amount of Say” and “Total error” to adjust previous sample weights.
4. Normalize the new sample weights.
5. Iterate through these steps until achieving a minimal training error.

For instance, considering our dataset, we’ve sequentially built three decision trees (DT1, DT2, DT3). When we apply our test data, it will pass through these trees, culminating in determining the majority class, guiding our predictions for the test dataset.

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AdaBoost in Python

Implementing the AdaBoost algorithm in Python is quite simple and can be done in just a few lines of code. To get started, you will need to import the AdaBoost classifier from the scikit-learn library. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to utilize AdaBoost:

  • Import Required Libraries: To begin, you should import the AdaBoost classifier from scikit-learn. Additionally, consider importing any other libraries you might need for your specific task.
Import Required Libraries
  • Data Splitting: It is important to divide your data into training and testing sets before applying AdaBoost. This division ensures that you can accurately assess your model’s performance.
Data Splitting
  • Training the AdaBoost Model: With your training data prepared, you can proceed to train the AdaBoost model. This training data should include both the input features (X) and the corresponding output labels (y).
Training the AdaBoost Model
  • Generating Predictions: Once your model is trained, you can use it to make predictions on the test data, which contains only the input features. Your model’s predictions can then be compared with the actual outputs to assess their accuracy.
Generating Predictions
  • Assessing Model Accuracy: To evaluate the model’s accuracy, you can compare the actual test outputs (y_test) with the predicted outputs (y_pred). This evaluation helps to determine how well your model is performing and whether it meets the requirements of your specific problem.
Assessing Model Accuracy

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Gradient boosting vs Adaboost

Gradient Boosting and AdaBoost are ensemble learning techniques in machine learning.

Gradient Boosting focuses on minimizing errors by sequentially training models that correct predecessor’s mistakes. It uses gradient descent to optimize and build stronger models. AdaBoost emphasizes correcting misclassifications, iteratively adjusting sample weights to prioritize misclassified instances in subsequent models.

Gradient Boosting incrementally minimizes overall errors, while AdaBoost focuses on correcting misclassifications iteratively. Both techniques have unique approaches in building strong ensemble models, with Gradient Boosting being robust and handling complex data and AdaBoost effectively correcting misclassifications but potentially sensitive to noise.

ParameterGradient BoostingAdaboost
ApproachMinimizes errors sequentially by optimizing residualsEmphasizes correcting misclassifications iteratively
Weight AdjustmentMinimizes overall errors by focusing on residualsEmphasizes correcting misclassifications by adjusting sample weights
Learning SpeedSlower due to the complexity of decision treesGenerally faster due to simpler base learners
Base LearnersTypically decision trees, strong learnersTypically simple learners like decision stumps
OverfittingProne to overfitting, especially with deeper treesLess prone to overfitting compared to Gradient Boosting; simple models reduce overfitting risk

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Advantages of AdaBoost

AdaBoost in machine learning is known for its ability to improve the performance of weak learners and create strong models. We will explore the key advantages of AdaBoost simply and understandably.

  • Improved Accuracy: AdaBoost’s primary advantage lies in its ability to enhance the accuracy of machine learning models. It does so by sequentially training a series of weak learners, such as decision trees, and assigning more weight to the misclassified data points. This iterative process continues until the model’s predictions become highly accurate. Think of it as a team of experts refining their predictions based on past mistakes, resulting in a more precise outcome.
  • Versatility: Another great advantage of AdaBoost is its versatility. It can be applied to a wide range of machine learning problems, from text classification and image recognition to medical diagnosis and financial forecasting. This flexibility makes it a valuable tool for data scientists and machine learning practitioners working on various domains and projects.
  • Robustness: AdaBoost is robust against overfitting, a common issue in machine learning where a model becomes overly complex and performs poorly on new, unseen data. By combining multiple weak learners, AdaBoost reduces the risk of overfitting, ensuring that the model generalizes well to new data points.
  • Feature Selection: AdaBoost can be used to identify and prioritize important features in a dataset. During the training process, it assigns higher weights to the features that contribute more to the model’s accuracy. This not only improves the model’s performance but also provides insights into which features are most relevant in making predictions.
  • Few Hyperparameters: Hyperparameters are parameters that need to be set before training a machine learning model. AdaBoost has very few hyperparameters to tune, making it easier to implement and less prone to errors. This is especially advantageous for beginners in machine learning who may find hyperparameter tuning daunting.
  • Handling Imbalanced Datasets: In real-world scenarios, datasets often suffer from class imbalance, where one class has significantly fewer samples than the others. AdaBoost can handle imbalanced datasets effectively by focusing more on the minority class during training. This is particularly useful in applications like fraud detection or medical diagnosis.
  • Simple Implementation: From a coding perspective, implementing AdaBoost is straightforward, often requiring just a few lines of code. It’s readily available in popular machine learning libraries like scikit-learn, making it accessible for developers and data scientists.
  • High Predictive Accuracy: In addition to improving the accuracy of models, AdaBoost often produces models with high predictive accuracy. This makes it an excellent choice when you need reliable predictions, such as in stock market forecasting or customer churn prediction.


As we wrap up our exploration of AdaBoost, it’s clear that the world of machine learning is filled with exciting prospects. AdaBoost’s adaptability and performance enhancements will continue to be significant in the future. Mastering this tool doesn’t just enhance your skills; it also opens doors to opportunities where precision and collaboration are essential for success. AdaBoost is your gateway to an exciting future in the ever-evolving field of machine learning.

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What is AdaBoost in machine learning?

AdaBoost is a machine learning technique that helps create powerful models by combining many simple models. It’s like getting advice from different experts who learn from their mistakes and work together to solve a problem.

How does AdaBoost improve model accuracy?

AdaBoost trains multiple simple models, and it gives more attention to the mistakes they make. By learning from these mistakes, AdaBoost helps improve the model’s accuracy over time.

Can AdaBoost be used for different tasks?

Yes, AdaBoost is versatile. It can be used for various tasks, like classifying emails as spam or not, detecting faces in images, and more. It’s handy in many areas.

Is AdaBoost suitable for beginners in machine learning?

Yes, AdaBoost is beginner-friendly. It has only a few settings to adjust, making it a good starting point for those new to machine learning.

Does AdaBoost work with imbalanced data?

Yes, AdaBoost can handle datasets where one class has very few examples. It focuses more on the minority class during training, which is helpful in scenarios like fraud detection.

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About the Author

Senior Research Analyst

As a Senior Research Analyst, Arya Karn brings expertise in crafting compelling technical content in Data Science and Machine Learning. With extensive knowledge in AI/ML, NLP, DBMS, and Generative AI, his works get lakhs of views across social platforms that benefit both technical and business spheres.