Unsupervised heterogeneous coupling learning for categorical representation

Chengzhang Zhu*, Longbing Cao, Jianping Yin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Complex categorical data is often hierarchically coupled with heterogeneous relationships between attributes and attribute values and the couplings between objects. Such value-to-object couplings are heterogeneous with complementary and inconsistent interactions and distributions. Limited research exists on unlabeled categorical data representations, ignores the heterogeneous and hierarchical couplings, underestimates data characteristics and complexities, and overuses redundant information, etc. The deep representation learning of unlabeled categorical data is challenging, overseeing such value-to-object couplings, complementarity and inconsistency, and requiring large data, disentanglement, and high computational power. Thiswork introduces a shallow but powerful UNsupervised heTerogeneous couplIng lEarning (UNTIE) approach for representing coupled categorical data by untying the interactions between couplings and revealing heterogeneous distributions embedded in each type of couplings. UNTIE is efficiently optimized w.r.t. a kernel k-means objective function for unsupervised representation learning of heterogeneous and hierarchical value-to-object couplings. Theoretical analysis shows that UNTIE can represent categorical data with maximal separability while effectively represent heterogeneous couplings and disclose their roles in categorical data. The UNTIE-learned representations make significant performance improvement against the state-of-the-art categorical representations and deep representation models on 25 categorical data sets with diversified characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-549
Number of pages17
JournalIEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


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