Using decision trees for agent modeling: improving prediction performance

Bark Cheung Chiu, Geoffrey I. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


A modeling system may be required to predict an agent's future actions under constraints of inadequate or contradictory relevant historical evidence. This can result in low prediction accuracy, or otherwise, low prediction rates, leaving a set of cases for which no predictions are made. A previous study that explored techniques for improving prediction rates in the context of modeling students' subtraction skills using Feature Based Modeling showed a tradeoff between prediction rate and predication accuracy. This paper presents research that aims to improve prediction rates without affecting prediction accuracy. The FBM-C4.5 agent modeling system was used in this research. However, the techniques explored are applicable to any Feature Based Modeling system, and the most effective technique developed is applicable to most agent modeling systems. The default FBM-C4.5 system models agents' competencies with a set of decision trees, trained on all historical data. Each tree predicts one particular aspect of the agent's action. Predictions from multiple trees are compared for consensus. FBM-C4.5 makes no prediction when predictions from different trees contradict one another. This strategy trades off reduced prediction rates for increased accuracy. To make predictions in the absence of consensus, three techniques have been evaluated. They include using voting, using a tree quality measure and using a leaf quality measure. An alternative technique that merges multiple decision trees into a single tree provides an advantage of producing models that are more comprehensible. However, all of these techniques demonstrated the previous encountered trade-off between rate of prediction and accuracy of prediction, albeit less pronounced. It was hypothesized that models built on more current observations would outperform models built on earlier observations. Experimental results support this hypothesis. A Dual-model system, which takes this temporal factor into account, has been evaluated. This fifth approach achieved a significant improvement in prediction rate without significantly affecting prediction accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-152
Number of pages22
JournalUser Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Agent modeling
  • Decision tree
  • Inductive learning
  • Student modeling

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