Clustering with Bregman divergences

Arindam Banerjee, Srujana Merugu, Inderjit S. Dhillon, Joydeep Ghosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1112 Scopus citations


A wide variety of distortion functions, such as squared Euclidean distance, Mahalanobis distance, Itakura-Saito distance and relative entropy, have been used for clustering. In this paper, we propose and analyze parametric hard and soft clustering algorithms based on a large class of distortion functions known as Bregman divergences. The proposed algorithms unify centroid-based parametric clustering approaches, such as classical kmeans, the Linde-Buzo-Gray (LBG) algorithm and information-theoretic clustering, which arise by special choices of the Bregman divergence. The algorithms maintain the simplicity and scalability of the classical kmeans algorithm, while generalizing the method to a large class of clustering loss functions. This is achieved by first posing the hard clustering problem in terms of minimizing the loss in Bregman information, a quantity motivated by rate distortion theory, and then deriving an iterative algorithm that monotonically decreases this loss. In addition, we show that there is a bijection between regular exponential families and a large class of Bregman divergences, that we call regular Bregman divergences. This result enables the development of an alternative interpretation of an efficient EM scheme for learning mixtures of exponential family distributions, and leads to a simple soft clustering algorithm for regular Bregman divergences. Finally, we discuss the connection between rate distortion theory and Bregman clustering and present an information theoretic analysis of Bregman clustering algorithms in terms of a trade-off between compression and loss in Bregman information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Machine Learning Research
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Bregman divergences
  • Bregman information
  • Clustering
  • Expectation maximization
  • Exponential families
  • Information theory


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