In statistics, the Huber loss is a loss function used in robust regression, that is less sensitive to outliers in data than the squared error loss. A variant for classification is also sometimes used.
This function is quadratic for small values of a, and linear for large values, with equal values and slopes of the different sections at the two points where . The variable a often refers to the residuals, that is to the difference between the observed and predicted values , so the former can be expanded to
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Two very commonly used loss functions are the squared loss, , and the absolute loss, . While the absolute loss is not differentiable at exactly one point, , where it is subdifferentiable with its convex subdifferential equal to the interval ; the absolute-value loss function results in a median-unbiased estimator, which can be evaluated for particular data sets by linear programming. The squared loss has the disadvantage that it has the tendency to be dominated by outliers—when summing over a set of 's (as in ), the sample mean is influenced too much by a few particularly large a-values when the distribution is heavy tailed: in terms of estimation theory, the asymptotic relative efficiency of the mean is poor for heavy-tailed distributions
As defined above, the Huber loss function is convex in a uniform neighborhood of its minimum , at the boundary of this uniform neighborhood, the Huber loss function has a differentiable extension to an affine function at points and . These properties allow it to combine much of the sensitivity of the mean-unbiased, minimum-variance estimator of the mean (using the quadratic loss function) and the robustness of the median-unbiased estimor (using the absolute value function).
Pseudo-Huber loss function
The Pseudo-Huber loss function can be used as a smooth approximation of the Huber loss function, and ensures that derivatives are continuous for all degrees. It is defined as
As such, this function approximates for small values of , and is parallel with slope for large values of .
Variant for classification
For classification purposes, a variant of the Huber loss called modified Huber is sometimes used. Given a prediction (a real-valued classifier score) and a true binary class label , the modified Huber loss is defined as
- Huber, Peter J. (1964), "Robust Estimation of a Location Parameter", Annals of Statistics 53: 73–101
- Hastie, Trevor; Tibshirani, Robert; Friedman, Jerome (2009). The Elements of Statistical Learning. p. 349. Compared to Hastie et al., the loss is scaled by a factor of ½, to be consistent with Huber's original definition given earlier.
- Zhang, Tong (2004). "Solving large scale linear prediction problems using stochastic gradient descent algorithms". ICML.
- Friedman, J. H. (2001), "Greedy Function Approximation: A Gradient Boosting Machine", The Annals of Statistics, Vol. 26, No.5 (Oct. 2001), 1189-1232