Dendrogram: Definition, Example & Analysis

Instructor: David Gloag
In this lesson, we will explain what a dendrogram is, give an example, and show how it is used in analyzing data. At the end, you should have a good understanding of this interesting concept.

Increasing Familiarity

We like it when things are familiar. So, we will look for something they resemble and then we immediately know a few things about them. This knowledge leads to understanding. Consider for a moment meeting a person for the first time. You might note whether they are female or male, young or old, tall or short, or even whether you speak the same language. All of this tells you something about them. With each classification you are able to place them in, you get a better understanding. Now, you may not get the specifics in this way, but it will definitely help. And once you have some information, you can visually represent it using a dendrogram.

What is a Dendrogram?

A dendrogram is a visual representation. Specifically, it is a tree or branch diagram where there are many elements at one end, and few, or one, at the other. The branches represent categories or classes and the diagram implies an order or relationship between these categories or classes. The members of these categories are similar in some fashion or have a number characteristics in common. Another name for these categories or classes is cluster. And the process of placing the items into a specific cluster is known as clustering. Dendrograms are often used with clusters, which we will talk about in a later section.

Example of a Dendrogram

The most common example of a dendrogram is the tiered diagram used to display the playoff games and progress of some sporting event, like hockey, basketball or baseball. Each of the teams that makes the playoffs is listed, along with the games they need to win in order to make it to the finals. The junctions of the lines in these diagrams represent the games played, and where the winner (and loser in double elimination) proceeds. Other examples exist, as they are often used in biological taxonomy, clustering, and cluster analysis.

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