A practical explanation of a Naive Bayes classifier

The simplest solutions are usually the most powerful ones, and Naive Bayes is a good proof of that. In spite of the great advances of the Machine Learning in the last years, it has proven to not only be simple but also fast, accurate and reliable. It has been successfully used for many purposes, but it works particularly well with natural language processing (NLP) problems.

Naive Bayes is a family of probabilistic algorithms that take advantage of probability theory and Bayes’ Theorem to predict the category of a sample (like a piece of news or a customer review). They are probabilistic, which means that they calculate the probability of each category for a given sample, and then output the category with the highest one. The way they get these probabilities is by using Bayes’ Theorem, which describes the probability of a feature, based on prior knowledge of conditions that might be related to that feature.

We’re going to be working with an algorithm called Multinomial Naive Bayes. We’ll walk through the algorithm applied to NLP with an example, so by the end not only will you know how this method works, but also why it works. Then, we’ll lay out a few advanced techniques that can make Naive Bayes competitive with more complex Machine Learning algorithms, such as SVM and neural networks.