Bagging constructs an estimator by averaging predictors trained on bootstrap samples. Bagged estimates almost consistently improve on the original predictor. It is thus important to understand the reasons for this success, and also for the occasional failures. It is widely believed that bagging is effective thanks to the variance reduction stemming from averaging predictors. However, seven years from its introduction, bagging is still not fully understood. This paper provides experimental evidence supporting the hypothesis that bagging stabilizes prediction by equalizing the influence of training examples. This effect is detailed in two different frameworks: estimation on the real line and regression. Bagging’s improvements/deteriorations are explained by the goodness/badness of highly influential examples, in situations where the usual variance reduction argument is at best questionable. Finally, reasons for the equalization effect are advanced. They support that other resampling strategies such as half-sampling should provide qualitatively identical effects while being computationally less demanding than bootstrap sampling.
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