Nomograms for Visualization of
Naive Bayesian Classifier
Martin Moˇ zina1, Janez Demˇ sar1, Michael Kattan2, and Blaˇ z Zupan1,3
1Faculty of Computer and Information Science, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
2Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA
3Dept. Mol. and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA
Abstract. Besides good predictive performance, the naive Bayesian clas-
sifier can also offer a valuable insight into the structure of the training
data and effects of the attributes on the class probabilities. This struc-
ture may be effectively revealed through visualization of the classifier.
We propose a new way to visualize the naive Bayesian model in the form
of a nomogram. The advantages of the proposed method are simplicity
of presentation, clear display of the effects of individual attribute val-
ues, and visualization of confidence intervals. Nomograms are intuitive
and when used for decision support can provide a visual explanation of
predicted probabilities. And finally, with a nomogram, a naive Bayesian
model can be printed out and used for probability prediction without
the use of computer or calculator.
Compared to other supervised machine learning methods, naive Bayesian classi-
fier (NBC) is perhaps one of the simplest yet surprisingly powerful technique to
construct predictive models from labelled training sets. Its predictive properties
have often been a subject of theoretical and practical studies (e.g. [1,2]), and it
has been shown that despite NBC’s assumption of conditional independence of
attributes given the class, the resulting models are often robust to a degree where
they match or even outperform other more complex machine learning methods.
Besides good predictive accuracy, NBC can also provide a valuable insight to
the training data by exposing the relations between attribute values and classes.
The easiest and the most effective way to present these relations is through
visualization. But while the predictive aspect of NBC has been much stud-
ied, only a few reports deal with visualization and explanation capabilities of
NBC. In this, a notable exception is the work of Kononenko  and Becker et
al. . Kononenko introduced the concept of information that is gained by know-
ing the value of a particular attribute. When using the NBC for classification,
Kononenko’s information gains can offer an explanation on how the values of the
attributes influenced the predicted probability of the class. Becker and coauthors
proposed an alternative approach to visualization of NBC that is also available
as Evidence Visualizer in the commercial data mining suite MineSet. Evidence
Visualizer uses pie and bar charts to represent conditional probabilities, and be-
sides visualization of the model offers interactive support to prediction of class
In the paper, we propose an alternative method to visualization of a NBC
that clearly exposes the quantitative information on the effect of attribute values
to class probabilities and uses simple graphical objects (points, rulers and lines)
that are easier to visualize and comprehend. The method can be used both to
reveal the structure of the NBC model, and to support the prediction.
The particular visualization technique we rely on are nomograms. In general,
a nomogram is any graphical representation of a numerical relationships. In-
vented by French mathematician Maurice d’Ocagne in 1891, the primary means
of a nomogram was to enable the user to graphically compute the outcome of
an equation without doing any calculus. Much later, Lubsen and coauthors 
extended the nomograms to visualize a logistic regression model. They show the
utility of such a device on a case for prediction of probability of diagnosis of
acute myocardial infarction. Their nomogram was designed so that it can be
printed on the paper and easily used by physicians to obtain the probability
of diagnosis without resorting to a calculator or a computer. With an excellent
implementation of logistic regression nomograms in a Design and hmisc mod-
ules for S-Plus and R statistical packages by Harrell , the idea has recently
been picked up; especially in the field of oncology, there are now a number of
nomograms used in daily clinical practice for prognosis of outcomes of different
treatments that have been published for variety of cancer types (e.g. ; see also
Our NBC nomograms use a similar visualization approach to that of Harrell
for logistic regression, and well conform to the NBC visualization design princi-
ples as stated by Becker . In the paper, we first show how to adapt the NBC
to be suitable for visualization with a nomogram. We also propose the means
to compute confidence intervals for the contributions of attribute values and for
the class probability, and include these in visualization. We discuss on the differ-
ences between our visualization approach and that of Evidence Visualizer, and
compare NBC nomograms to those for logistic regression. We show that a sim-
ple adjustment of an NBC nomogram can support a visual comparison between
NBC and logistic regression models. The particular benefits of the approach and
ideas for the further work are summarized in the conclusion.
2 Naive Bayesian Nomogram
Let us start with an example. Fig. 1 shows a nomogram for a NBC that mod-
els the probability for a passenger to survive the disaster of the HMS Titanic. The
nomogram, built from the well-known Titanic data (http://hesweb1.med.virginia.
edu/biostat/s/data/), includes three attributes that report on the travelling class
(first, second, and third class, or a crew member), age (adult or child), and gender
of the passenger.
Fig.1. A nomogram for prediction of survival probability of a passenger on HMS
Of 2201 passengers on Titanic, 711 (32.3%) survived. To make a prediction,
the contribution of each attribute is measured as a point score (topmost axis in
the nomogram), and the individual point scores are summed to determine the
probability of survival (bottom two axes of the nomogram). When the value of
the attribute is unknown, its contribution is 0 points. Therefore, not knowing
anything about the passenger, the total point score is 0, and the corresponding
probability equals to the unconditional prior. The nomogram in Fig. 1 shows the
case when we know that the passenger is a child; this score is slightly less than 50
points, and increases the posterior probability to about 52%. If we further know
that the child travelled in the first class (about 70 points), the points would sum
to about 120, with a corresponding probability of survival of about 80%.
Besides enabling the prediction, the naive Bayesian nomogram nicely reveals
the structure of the model and the relative influences of the attribute values
to the class probability. For the Titanic data set, gender is an attribute with
the biggest potential influence on the probability of passenger’s survival: being
female increases the chances of survival the most (100 points), while being male
decreases it (about −30 points). The corresponding line in the nomogram for
this attribute is the longest. Of the three attributes age is apparently the least
influential, where being a child increases the probability of survival. Most lucky
were also the passengers of the first class for which – considering the status only
– the probability of survival was much higher than the prior.
In the following we show how to represent the NBC in the way to be applica-
ble for visualization with a nomogram. We further introduce confidence intervals,
and discuss several other details on our particular implementation.
2.1 Derivation of Naive Bayesian Nomogram
Naive Bayesian rule to assess the probability of class c given an instance X with
a set of attribute values X = ?ai,a2...an? is:
We call class c a target class, since it will be the one represented in the nomogram.
The probability of the alternative class (or alternative classes) ¯ c is P(¯ c|X), and
dividing the two we obtain:
In terms of the log odds (logit P = log
1−P), this equation translates to:
logit P(c|X) = logit P(c) +
The terms in summation can be expressed as odds ratios (OR):
= OR(ai) (4)
and estimate the ratio of posterior to prior probability given the attribute value
ai.4We now take the right term in (3) and call it F(c|X):
and use it for the construction of the central part of the nomogram relating
attribute values to point scores. The individual contribution (point score) of
each known attribute value in the nomogram is equal to logOR(ai), and to
what we have referred as the sum of point scores corresponds to F(c|X).
Using Eq. 5, we can now derive the central part of the nomogram from Fig. 1.
As a target class, we will use the survival of the passengers. For each attribute
value, we compute the individual contributions (i.e. point scores) from the in-
stance counts in Table 1. For example, the log odds ratio for the passenger in the
first class is 1.25, as the odds for surviving in the first class are 203/122 = 1.67,
unconditional odds for surviving are 711/1490 = 0.48, and their log ratio is
log(1.67/0.48) = 1.25. Similarly, the log odds ratio for the second-class passen-
gers is log118/167
Notice that instead of relative frequencies used here, probabilities could also be
estimated by other methods, like Laplace or m-estimate .
= 0.393, and for the female passengers is log344/126
4Our use of odds ratios is a bit different from that in logistic regression. Instead of
relating posterior and prior probability, odd ratios in logistic regression relate the
odds at the two different values of a binary attribute .
Table 1. Number of instances in Titanic data set with a particular value of an attribute
Fig.2. A central part of the Titanic nomogram showing the log odds ratios for survival
given different values of the attributes.
These and all other log odds ratios for different attribute values form the
central part of the nomogram shown in Fig. 2. This is equal to the corresponding
part of the nomogram from Fig. 1, except that for the latter we have re-scaled the
units so that log odds ratio of 1.744 – a maximal absolute log odds ratio in the
nomogram – represents 100 points. Log odds ratio is a concept that experts, like
those from biomedical statistics, do understand and can interpret. For others, a
scale with points from -100 to 100 may provide more comfort, and summing-up
the integers may be easier than using real numbers. Also, it may be easier to
compare the contributions of different attribute values in 100 points scale.
For the part of the nomogram that relates the sum of individual point scores
to the class probability, we start from Eqs. 3 and 5 and obtain:
1 − P(c|X)= log
1 − P(c)+ F(c|X) (6)
From this, we compute the probability P(c|X) as:
P(c|X) = [1 + e−log P(c)/(1−P(c))−F(c|X)]−1
The lower part of the nomogram, which relates the sum of points as contributed
by the known attributes to the class probability, is then a tabulation of a function
P(c|X) = f[F(c|X)]. For our Titanic example, this part of the nomogram is
shown in Fig. 3.
Fig.3. The part of Titanic nomogram to determine the the probability of survival from
the sum of log odds ratios as contributed from the known attribute values.
The point scores in the nomogram, e.g. the odds ratios OR(ai), are estimated
from the training data. It may be therefore important for the user of the nomo-
gram to know how much to trust these estimates. We can provide this informa-
tion through confidence intervals.
The 1 − α confidence intervals of?
where N is a number of training examples, and Naiis a number of training
examples that include attribute value ai.
Fig. 4 shows a Titanic survival nomogram that includes the confidence inter-
vals for α = 0.95.
OR(ai) are estimated as (see )
OR(ai) ± z1−α/2
Var(·) is computed as:5
Var(logitˆP(c)) = [NˆP(c)ˆP(¯ c)]−1
OR(ai)) = [NaiˆP(c|ai)ˆP(¯ c|ai)]−1−?
We have implemented a NBC nomogram as a widget within a machine learning
suite Orange . The widget (see Fig. 4 for a snapshot) supports visualization of
a nomogram, use of confidence intervals, and can, for each attribute value, plot
a bar with height proportional to the number of particular instances.
Our implementation supports the classification. Attribute values (dots on
attribute axis) can be moved across the axis, where we can also select values
between two value marks (weighted distributions). Class probabilities and asso-
ciated confidence intervals are updated instantaneously with any change in the
data or corresponding naive Bayesian model.
5Although we regard the computation of the confidence intervals for NBC as an
important new addition for this method, our paper focuses on visualization of the
confidence intervals and we omit the proof and derivation of confidence intervals due
to space considerations.
Fig.4. Orange widget with the Titanic nomogram that includes confidence intervals
for contributions of attribute values and class probabilities. For a woman travelling in
the first class, the probability of survival is with 95% confidence between 0.87 and 0.92.
3Discussion and Related Work
Naive Bayesian nomograms, as presented in this paper, are a visualization tech-
nique that we adapted and extended from logistic regression [4,5]. In this, we
have considered the design requirements for visualization of NBC as proposed by
Becker et al. Below, we briefly review them and point out how we have addressed
them. In the review of related work, we make a note on the explanation tech-
nique for NBC as proposed by Kononenko . We then discuss the differences of
our method with that of Evidence Visualizer . Finally, we consider the related
work on logistic regression nomograms, discuss the differences and highlight the
advantages of naive Bayesian nomograms.
3.1 Design Principles
Becker et al.  list a number of design requirements for a visualization of a naive
Bayesian classifier. With naive Bayesian nomograms, we address all of them. In
particular, because of their simplicity, visualized NBC models should be easily
understood by non-experts. In the nomogram, comparing the span of an attribute
axis easily identifies the important attributes. The effects of each attribute value
are also clearly represented in a nomogram, making it easy to spot a direction
and magnitude of the influence. Attribute axis are aligned to zero-point influence
(prior probability), which allows for a straightforward comparison of contribu-
tions across different values and attributes. Confidence intervals, in addition to
histograms with record counts, inform the user about reliability of the estimates
presented in the nomograms. Nomogram may also be a practical visualization
method when dealing with larger number of attributes. For example, sorting at-
tributes by their impact (e.g. highest overall/positive/negative influence) offers
a means to study and gain a valuable insight into a large naive Bayesian models.
Nomogram-based class-characterization is particularly straightforward for
domains with binary class: the zero-point influence line vertically splits the
nomogram to the right (positive) and left (negative) part. The visualized class
is characterized with the attribute values on the right, whereas the other class
is characterized with values presented on the left side of the nomogram. Accord-
ingly, the values farthest from the center are the most influential class indicators.
In our implementation, nomograms can be used for interactive, click-and-
drag classification and what-if analysis. Alternatively, they can be printed out
and used for probability prediction without the use of computer or calculator.
3.2Related Work on Nomograms and Visualization of Naive
In the early nineties, Kononenko  realized that besides good predictive per-
formance NBCs can be used to explain to what degree and how attribute values
influence the class probability when classifying an example. He showed that
NBCs can be written as a sum of information contributed by each attribute,
where a contribution of an attribute value aiis log2P(c|ai) − log2P(c).
Zupan et al  plotted these contributions in a form similar to nomograms
proposed in this paper. The main disadvantage of their approach, however, is
that the partial attribute scores (influences) have to be summed for each class
separately, and then normalized.
Despite the popularity of NBCs within machine learning community, there
have not been many reports on methods to visualize it, and even fewer are
practical implementations of these. A notable exception is Evidence Visualizer
implemented within a data mining suite MineSet . Evidence Visualizer offers
two different views of NBCs, and we present an example using the Titanic NBC
model in Fig. 5. In the pie chart display, there is a pie for each attribute-value
combination, with slices corresponding to distinct classes and where the size
of each slice is proportional to P(ai|cj). The height of the pie is proportional
to number of instances with an attribute value ai. In the bar-chart representa-
tion, each bar signifies the evidence for a particular class cj as proportional to
−log(1−P(ai|cj)). Probability confidence intervals are displayed through color
saturation. Evidence Visualizer can be used either in an exploratory way or for
While models in Evidence Visualizer may be visually attractive, we believe
that NBC nomograms as presented in this paper have several advantages. Both
methods aim at visualizing the effects the attribute values have on class proba-
bility, where Evidence Visualizer uses bar/pie heights, size of pie slices and color
saturations while NBC nomogram uses a simpler position-based representation.
Visualization theory  gives a clear advantage to positional, line-based, visu-
alization of quantitative information as opposed to that using more complex 2-D
and 3-D objects. When comparing relative evidences contributed by different at-
tribute values, a positional visualization should be clearer to that of comparing
the size of the pie slices or heights of the bars. In particular, pie-charts have been
Fig.5. Evidence Visualizer, a visualization of NBC from Titanic data set in MineSet.
criticized by Tufte  for their failure to order numbers along a visual dimen-
sion, and for reasons of poor interpretability of multiple pie charts. Ware 
also reports that comprehension of absolute quantities when visualized through
color saturations may be at least hard, while interpreting the visualization of
confidence intervals through lines of variable length in the nomogram should be
A distinct advantage of a nomogram is that it uses simpler graphical objects
and can thus be used in, for instance, systems for decision support on smaller-
resolution devices such as handhelds or other mobile devices. The shortcoming
of nomograms as compared to the Evidence Visualizer is in visualization in case
of multiple-classes: the nomograms visualize one class at a time.
Our NBC nomograms stem from the work of Lubsen  and Harrell  on
visualization of logistic regression. Logistic regression models the probability of
target class value as:
where xiis the value of i-th attribute being 0 or 1 in case of a binary attribute.
Notice that m-valued nominal attributes can be encoded with m − 1 binary
dummy variables. Log odds for the above probability is:
1 + e−β0−?
logit P(c|X) = β0+
The position of a particular attribute value xiin the logistic regression nomogram
is determined through the product βixi. In such nomogram, one of the values of
the attributes will always be displayed at point 0, whereas others will span to
the right or left depending on the sign of β. Adhering to the particular (and well-
known) implementation by Harrell , all attributes are presented so that the
leftmost value is drawn at the point 0, and the effects of aligning the attribute
axis in this way are compensated through the appropriate change in β0. The
lower part of the nomogram (determination of class probability from the sum of
attribute value points) is derived in a similar way as for NBC nomograms (see
Fig. 6.a for a nomogram of logistic regression model for the Titanic data set).
There are several important differences between logistic and NBC nomo-
grams, all stemming from the differences between the two modelling methods.
b) logistic regression nomogram a) left-aligned NBC nomogram
Fig.6. Comparison of the nomograms for the Titanic data set.
NBC nomograms depict both negative and positive influences of the values of
attributes, and differently from logistic regression nomograms, do not anchor
one of the values to the 0-point. In this sense, logistic regression nomograms are
less appropriate for class characterization. To illustrate this point, values that
appear on logistic regression nomogram at 0-point are shown as having the same
effect on the class probability, while they may be found at completely differ-
ent positions in corresponding NBC nomograms. In that, we believe an NBC
nomogram offers a better insight into the modelled domain. Another advantage
is handling of unknown values. Namely, one needs to specify all attributes when
reasoning with a logistic regression nomogram, while NBC nomograms offer a
nice interactive one-value-at-a-time update of class probabilities.
To compare NBC and logistic regression nomograms, we can alter the presen-
tation of the NBC nomogram so that the leftmost values for each of the attribute
are aligned and their log odds ratio set to 0. We call this a left-aligned NBC
nomogram. Alignment changes, e.g. offsets of the axis for each of the attributes,
are reflected in an appropriate update of the lower part of the nomogram.
Fig. 6.a shows a left-aligned nomogram for the Titanic data set, and compares
it to the logistic regression nomogram. The two nomograms look very alike,
and the effect of the attributes is comparable even on the absolute, log odds
ratio scale. The only noticeable difference is a position of the crew value of the
attribute status. To analyze this, we used interaction analysis  which showed
that this attribute strongly interacts with age (crew members are adults) and sex
(most of them are male). It seems that the conditional attribute independence
assumption of the NBC is most violated for this attribute and value, and hence
the difference with logistic regression which is known to be able to compensate
for the effects of attribute dependencies .
Fig. 7 shows a comparison of the two nomograms for another data set called
voting. This is a data set from a UCI Machine Learning Repository  on sixteen
key votes of each of the U.S. House of Representatives Congressmen of which
we have selected six most informative votes for the figure). Visual comparison
of the two nomograms reveals some similarities (the first three attributes) and
quite some differences (the last three). As for Titanic, we have also noticed that
attribute interaction analysis can help explain the differences between the two
b) logistic regression nomograma) left-aligned NBC nomogram
Fig.7. Comparison of the nomograms for the voting data set.
It is beyond this paper to compare NBC and logistic regression, which has
otherwise received quite some attention recently . With the above examples,
however, we wanted to point out that nomograms may be the right tool for
experimental comparison of different models and modelling techniques, as it
allows to easily spot the similarities and differences in the structure of the model.
In words of Colin Ware, “one of the greatest benefits of data visualization is the
sheer quantity of information that can be rapidly interpreted if it is presented
well” . As the naive Bayesian classifier can be regarded as a simple yet power-
ful model to summarize the effects of attributes for some classification problems,
it is also important to be able to clearly present the model to comprehend these
effects and gain insight to the data.
In this paper, we show how we can adapt naive Bayesian classifiers and
present them with a well established visualization technique called nomograms [5,
6]. The main benefit of this approach is simple and clear visualization of the com-
plete model and the quantitative information it contains. The visualization can
be used for exploratory analysis and decision making (classification), and we also
show that it can be used effectively to compare different models, including those
coming from logistic regression.
There are several aspects of naive Bayesian nomograms that deserve further
attention and investigation. In the paper, our examples are all binary classifica-
tion problems. Nomograms are intended to visualize the probability of one class
against all others, and in principle for non-binary classification problems one
would need to analyze several nomograms. Also, we have limited the scope of
this paper to the analysis and presentation of data sets that include only nominal
attributes. In principle, and as with logistic regression nomograms , one can
easily present continuous relations, and we are now extending naive Bayesian
nomograms in this way.
Acknowledgement Download full-text
This work was supported, in part, by the program and project grants from Slovene
Ministry of Science and Technology and Slovene Ministry of Information Society, and
American Cancer Society project grant RPG-00-202-01-CCE.
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