CURE: flexible categorical data representation by hierarchical coupling learning

Songlei Jian, Guansong Pang, Longbing Cao, Kai Lu*, Hang Gao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The representation of categorical data with hierarchical value coupling relationships (i.e., various value-to-value cluster interactions) is very critical yet challenging for capturing complex data characteristics in learning tasks. This paper proposes a novel and flexible coupled unsupervised categorical data representation (CURE) framework, which not only captures the hierarchical couplings but is also flexible enough to be instantiated for contrastive learning tasks. CURE first learns the value clusters of different granularities based on multiple value coupling functions and then learns the value representation from the couplings between the obtained value clusters. With two complementary value coupling functions, CURE is instantiated into two models: coupled data embedding (CDE) for clustering and coupled outlier scoring of high-dimensional data (COSH) for outlier detection. These show that CURE is flexible for value clustering and coupling learning between value clusters for different learning tasks. CDE embeds categorical data into a new space in which features are independent and semantics are rich. COSH represents data w.r.t. an outlying vector to capture complex outlying behaviors of objects in high-dimensional data. Substantial experiments show that CDE significantly outperforms three popular unsupervised encoding methods and three state-of-the-art similarity measures, and COSH performs significantly better than five state-of-the-art outlier detection methods on high-dimensional data. CDE and COSH are scalable and stable, linear to data size and quadratic to the number of features, and are insensitive to their parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-866
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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