I am currently testing out a few different ensemble methods on my dataset. I've heard that you can also use support vector machines as base learners in boosting and bagging methods but I am not sure which methods allow it or not. In particular, e.g. for XGB i tried out trees and SVMs as base learners and got the exact same result for 5 different performance metrics which made me question the results and/or that the option can only take trees as base learners. I didn't find much info in the documentation or at least not in all of the documentations. I would be interested about AdaBoostClassifier(), BaggingClassifier() and XGBClassifier(). Does anybody know the details and whether or not I can use SVMs here as base learners?


1 Answer 1


In short: Yes.

Conceptually, bagging and boosting are model-agnostic techniques, meaning that they work regardless of the learner.

Bagging essentially is the following:

  • create multiple predictors (they can even be hard-coded!)
  • gather predictions from the learners and come up with a prediction

Boosting can be seen as:

  • train a predictor
  • find where the predictor makes mistakes
  • put more emphasis on these mistakes
  • repeat until satisfactory

Regarding the specific Sklearn implementations, here are the base learners that you can use:

  • AdaBoostClassifier()

The documentation says Support for sample weighting is required, as well as proper classes_ and n_classes_ attributes.

This means that you can use all models that can give weight to your samples as part of the learning process (KNN, SVM, etc.)

  • BaggingClassifier()

This is a simple bagging strategy, so all estimators can be used here.

  • GradientBoostingClassifier()

This requires that your learners are differentiable so that the gradient can be computed. Generally, this technique is specific for tree learning.

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    $\begingroup$ This is true in theory, but the implementations may be different. XBG I think only supports trees (and linear models). Also, adaboost requires that the underlying model support instance weights (for the "put more emphasis" part). $\endgroup$
    – Ben Reiniger
    May 6, 2020 at 1:01
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    $\begingroup$ Bagging and Boosting, as concepts, are model agnostic. XGBoost is a specific implementation of boosting which indeed requires trees as base learners. As for AdaBoost, if the model doesn't support instance weighting, you can still use a sampling strategy to mimic this (i.e. create your training set by sampling with replacement using the instance weights). I edited my answer to include your comment! $\endgroup$ May 6, 2020 at 8:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perfect, this answers my question. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – RazorLazor
    May 6, 2020 at 9:32

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