[pymvpa] On below-chance classification (Anti-learning, encore)

Jacob Itzhacki jitzhacki at gmail.com
Thu Jan 31 09:20:00 UTC 2013

Dear all,

First off, pardon me if anything of what I say might already be described
somewhere else, I've done quite a bit of searching and reading on the
subject (eg. including Dr. Kowalczyks lecture) but it is always possible to
have bypassed something in this internet age. After reading as much as I
could about the problem I've noticed that the workarounds proposed don't
really fix the problem, which I am facing quite a bit, to the point that
around 1/3 of classifications are below classification accuracy (38-42% for
2way or 17%-19% for 4-way). I would like to have some feedback on an idea
I've had to try to still have this data be useful.

My question is this: How much (statistical?) merit would it be to come with
some sort of index to show how much a given classification accuracy is off
from absolute chance for this classification?

Elaborating, it would be displaying the absolute value of the substraction
of the resulting accuracy from chance level. Say, for a 2-way
classification (with 50% chance level), in which you obtain accuracies of
38% and 62% in 2 different instances the difference from chance for both
would be 12% which would make them equivalent.

Please offer as much criticism as you can to this approach.

Thanks in advance,


PS. For completions sake, I'll first list the things I've tried.

I'm running the classification on fMRI data obtained from a paradigm that
gives the following classification opportunities:

a. 4 categories, with 40 trials each at its fullest use (160 trials)
b. 2 categories as one yielding a classification of 80 trials for each, by
including two categories as one.
c. 2 categories, with 40 trials each, by disregarding 2 of the conditions.

I am also using a total of 8 different ROI.

I have tried reordering the trials on one of the subjects, however this
results in above chance accuracies in one analysis and below in the other
for the same ROI which gets rather frustrating if I wanted to do some sort
of averaging by the end. However, there seems to be some consistency into
which classification moves away from chance which leads me once again to
believe that there is in fact some learning even in the below-chance
classifications but the seeming anti-learning baffles me. What does it
mean?! (And how is it even possible? O.o)

Thanks again.
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