The F beta formula according to the wikipedia is "The weighted harmonic mean of precision and recall". I can not understand why in the left part of equation there is beta and in the right one is beta^2: enter image description here

To my mind if I claim that Precision is 5 times important than Recall: F beta = (1+beta)/(beta/P+1/R)=(1+beta)PR/(beta*R+P), where beta=0.2.

Is this right?


1 Answer 1


That's a great question, because on its face it seems like the weight should be $\beta$ alone, and, it should be in front of recall. The answer is in the text from which that reference is taken, on page 133: http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/Keith/pdf/Chapter7.pdf

The definition is designed to make the metric indifferent to a change in precision or recall when $P/R = \beta$. That is, $F_\beta$ increases by the same amount when either precision or recall increases, at the point where precision is already $\beta$ times bigger than recall.

The definition does indeed weight recall more highly as you can verify. Honestly on re-reading the text above, I was confused, because I don't see how it makes sense to think of "equilibrium" as the point where precision is much bigger, if recall matters more.

I plugged in the formula to Wolfram Alpha, and: enter image description here

Hm. These are only equal if $R/P = \beta$! I think the paper may have misstated this then, or else I've really missed something. It's a formula whose value changes at the same rate with respect to precision or recall, when recall is already $\beta$ times larger, and in that sense it corresponds to treating recall as $\beta$ time more important.

  • $\begingroup$ I have found two papers about F_beta: 1.cs.odu.edu/~mukka/cs795sum10dm/Lecturenotes/Day3/… 2. qwone.com/~jason/writing/fmeasure.pdf So from the the first link I figured out why in the F_beta formula it is beta^2, also that F_beta, technically speaking, presents the harmonic mean with weights of beta^2 for Recall and 1 for Precision. BUT in the second paper I see a bit different definition of F_beta (formula 5) This confused me. Which one is appropriate and which one to use? $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2017 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ Second one is the same, with a = 1/(1+B^2) $\endgroup$
    – Sean Owen
    Aug 18, 2017 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ F_a = (a+1)RP / (R+aP), where a = 1 / (1+ Beta^2)?? $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2017 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ Oops, mixing up the two papers. In the second, imagine a = B^2. In the first paper there's a similar derivation with alpha, but there a = 1/(1+B^2) $\endgroup$
    – Sean Owen
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ Right. And now we have F_b^2 = (b^2+1)RP / (R+b^2P), which says that R b^2 times important than P. The left part of the formula is my main concern, because according to the first paper the left part should be F_b not F_b^2. It is kind of ambiguity to me. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2017 at 18:43

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