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Exploring Types of Clustering in Machine Learning: concept, example, and limitations

Clustering in Machine Learning,Machine Learning . 

In the dynamic landscape of data analysis and machine learning, unlabelled datasets often present intriguing challenges. Enter clustering algorithms, a set of invaluable tools that excel in grouping similar entities or patterns based on a myriad of aspects or correlations. These algorithms unearth inherent structures and relationships within data, thereby enabling the revelation of hidden insights and the development of cumulative concepts. In this article, we embark on a comprehensive journey through the realm of clustering in machine learning. We will delve into the various types, delve into their characteristics, explore limitations, and unveil their real-world applications.

Diverse Types of Clustering in Machine Learning

Clustering methods in machine learning are as diverse as the datasets they encounter, catering to a range of analytical needs and dataset characteristics. The choice of a clustering algorithm hinges on the underlying data distribution, underscoring the significance of a judicious selection. Below, we dissect the principal categories of clustering algorithms and unravel their distinguishing features, employing illustrative examples for clarity.

Unveiling Centroid-Based Clustering

Centroid-based clustering unfolds by grouping data points based on their similarity to a central representative point, known as the centroid. This technique operates under the premise that data points sharing akin attributes coalesce to form coherent clusters. The venerable K-means algorithm exemplifies a widely-used centroid-based clustering approach.

Illustration: Imagine a dataset capturing diverse customer purchasing behaviors in an online retail emporium. By harnessing the power of centroid-based clustering, we can discern discrete customer segments predicated on their spending proclivities. High-spending patrons, budget-conscious shoppers, and trend enthusiasts would each manifest as a distinct cluster, with a centroid embodying the average buying behavior within its segment.


  • The initial selection of centroids can exert substantial influence on the final clusters, occasionally yielding suboptimal results.
  • Centroid-based clustering's reliance on measurement units renders it sensitive to variances in object features, potentially tempering its clustering efficacy.

Unraveling Density-Based Clustering

Density-based clustering, a technique that thrives on identifying densely populated regions of data points demarcated by sparser expanses, emerges as a potent solution for datasets characterized by heterogeneous densities and the intrusion of noise. The DBSCAN algorithm, a prominent player in the density-based clustering arena, stands as a testament to this approach's prowess.

Illustration: Picture a dataset encapsulating the spatial distribution of criminal incidents across a metropolis. By invoking density-based clustering, we can pinpoint pockets of elevated criminal activity, delineating high-crime zones as clusters exhibiting dense concentrations of criminal occurrences. This algorithm adeptly segregates these areas from regions characterized by minimal criminal incidents and outliers emblematic of noise or isolated transgressions.


  • High-dimensional datasets pose challenges for density-based clustering algorithms due to the curse of dimensionality, which can potentially hamper their performance.
  • Density-based clustering is ill-suited for datasets shaped like a neck, where clusters are interconnected via slender corridors.

Deciphering Distribution-Based Clustering

Distribution-based clustering operates on the presumption that datasets adhere to specific distribution patterns, such as the Gaussian distribution. This methodology allocates data points to clusters based on their proximity to the densest regions, assigning greater likelihood to points in closer proximity. The Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm occupies a prime position in the distribution-based clustering landscape.

Illustration: Contemplate a dataset chronicling student performance scores in a standardized examination. Through the prism of distribution-based clustering, we unravel clusters that mirror distinct levels of achievement: high-performing, average-performing, and low-performing students. The algorithm strategically aligns students with clusters reflective of their scores' proximity to the respective performance tiers' centroids.


  • Distribution-based clustering might spawn false positives, entailing instances where data points deserving of a specific cluster inadvertently find themselves assigned to unrelated clusters.
  • Navigating the maze of selecting an appropriate distance threshold for clustering poses a formidable challenge, as it exerts substantial sway over data point allocation to clusters.

Uniting through Hierarchical Clustering

Hierarchical clustering weaves a narrative of data points within a tree-like structure, culminating in a hierarchical arrangement of clusters. This approach offers a vantage point for discerning relationships and resemblances, both within and between clusters. Hierarchical clustering assumes a pivotal role in analyzing taxonomic or hierarchical data.

Illustration: Envision a dataset unraveling biological organisms and their genetic traits. Employing the machinery of hierarchical clustering, we unfurl a dendrogram that unveils clusters encompassing kindred organisms, spanning a spectrum from broad taxonomic categories to closely related species or subspecies.


  • Hierarchical clustering's sensitivity to data point order introduces a layer of variability in the resultant clusters, potentially engendering divergent arrangements.
  • Tackling clusters of disparate sizes poses a challenge, necessitating interventions to accurately corral data points embedded within clusters of contrasting magnitudes.
  • Hierarchical clustering might not always yield a definitive solution, rendering the determination of the optimal cluster count susceptible to subjectivity.

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