RULEM: A Novel Heuristic Rule Learning Approach for Ordinal Classification with Monotonicity Constraints

Wouter Verbeke, David Martens, Bart Baesens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


In many real world applications classification models are required to be in line with domain knowledge and to respect monotone relations between predictor variables and the target class, in order to be acceptable for implementation.
This paper presents a novel heuristic approach, called RULEM, to induce monotone ordinal rule based classification models. The proposed approach can be applied in combination with any rule- or tree-based classification technique, since monotonicity is guaranteed in a postprocessing step. RULEM checks whether a rule set or decision tree violates the imposed monotonicity constraints and existing violations are resolved by inducing a set of additional rules which enforce monotone classification. The approach is able to handle non-monotonic noise, and can be applied to both partially and totally monotone problems with an ordinal target variable. Two novel justifiability measures are introduced which are based on RULEM and allow to calculate the extent to which a classification model is in line with domain knowledge expressed in the form of monotonicity constraints. An extensive benchmarking experiment and subsequent statistical analysis of the results on 14 public data sets indicates that RULEM preserves the predictive power of a rule induction technique while guaranteeing monotone classification. On the other hand, the post-processed rule sets are found to be significantly larger which is due to the induction of additional rules. E.g., when combined with Ripper a median performance difference was observed in terms of PCC equal to zero and an average difference equal to -0.66%, with on average 5 rules added to the rule sets.The average and minimum justifiability of the original rule sets equal respectively 92.66% and 34.44% in terms of the RULEMF justifiability index, and 91.28% and 40.1% in terms of RULEMS, indicating the effective need for monotonizing the rule sets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)858-873
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Soft Computing
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Heuristic
  • Justifiability
  • Monotonicity constraints
  • Ordinal classification
  • Post-processing
  • Rule learning

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