Crossentropy, Logloss, and Perplexity: Different Facets of Likelihoodby@artemborin
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Crossentropy, Logloss, and Perplexity: Different Facets of Likelihood

by ArtemSeptember 15th, 2023
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Machine learning is centered on creating models that predict accurately. Evaluation metrics offer a way to gauge a model's efficiency, which allows us to refine or even switch algorithms based on performance outcomes.
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Machine learning is centered on creating models that predict accurately. Evaluation metrics offer a way to gauge a model's efficiency, which allows us to refine or even switch algorithms based on performance outcomes.

The concept of "likelihood” is central to many of these metrics. It measures how well a model's predictions align with observed data. Therefore, it plays a pivotal role in model training and evaluation.

A model with higher likelihood, for example, suggests that the observed data is more probable under the given model's assumptions.

Tech tools such as TensorFlow and PyTorch often use likelihood-based metrics, especially in tasks like classification or sequence prediction. Such tools, equipped with functions and libraries tailored to these metrics, make the task of model evaluation accessible and highly efficient.

Understanding likelihood and its associated metrics is vital for anyone in machine learning. It allows us to form the basis for model evaluation and improvement.

Below, we will take a closer look at three key evaluation metrics to see how they work and relate to each other in machine learning.


Crossentropy evaluates the variance between two sets of probabilities, often juxtaposing real data patterns with a model's forecasted outcomes. Mathematically, for discrete distributions p and q, the crossentropy H(p, q) is given by:

H(p, q) = -\sum p(x) \log(q(x))

Where \( p(x) \) is the true probability of an event x occurring, and q(x) is the estimated probability of the same event according to the model.

It’s applied mainly in classification problems, especially in scenarios where the output can belong to multiple classes. It is used because it provides a clear measure of how far off a model's predictions are from the actual outcomes. The lower the crossentropy, the better the model's predictions align with the true values.

Several software libraries are equipped to handle computations involving crossentropy. Notably:

  • TensorFlow. This open-source framework provides functions like tf.nn.softmax_cross_entropy_with_logits which directly calculates crossentropy for classification problems.

  • PyTorch. It offers a similar capability with functions like torch.nn.CrossEntropyLoss, suitable for multi-class classification tasks.

  • Scikit-learn. While predominantly known for its machine learning algorithms, it also offers utilities to calculate log loss, which is closely related to crossentropy, using the log_loss function.


Logloss, short for logarithmic loss, gauges the accuracy of a classifier by penalizing false classifications. For a binary classification with true label y and predicted probability p, the logloss is given by:

L(y, p) = -y \log(p) - (1 - y) \log(1 - p)

Essentially, logloss is the crossentropy between the true labels and the predictions for binary classification problems. When expanded to multi-class classification, logloss sums up the crossentropy values for each class, making the two metrics intimately related.

It’s mainly employed in binary and multi-class classification problems. Its strength lies in its ability to quantify the uncertainty of the predictions based on how much they deviate from the true labels.

A perfect model would have a logloss of 0, though in practice, values tend to be greater than this.

A host of software libraries allows us to compute logloss:

Scikit-learn. As a widely-used machine learning library, scikit-learn offers the log_loss function, adept for both binary and multi-class classification scenarios.

TensorFlow and PyTorch. While these frameworks mainly focus on neural networks and deep learning, they inherently compute logloss when using crossentropy loss functions for classification tasks.

LightGBM and XGBoost. These gradient-boosting frameworks, known for their high performance in tabular data competitions, also contain functionalities to compute logloss, which are especially useful when evaluating model performance in classification challenges.


This is a measurement of how well probability distribution or probability model predicts a sample.

Given by:

Perplexity(P) = 2^{H(P)}

where H(P) is the crossentropy of the distribution P, perplexity effectively represents the weighted average number of choices a model thinks it has at each decision point.

In the context of crossentropy, a higher crossentropy value corresponds to a higher perplexity, indicating that the model is more uncertain of its predictions.

Perplexity's most notable application is in language models, where it measures how well a model predicts a sequence of words. A model with lower perplexity is deemed superior as it signifies fewer average branching factors, or in simpler terms, it's more certain about the next word in a sequence.

Aside from language models, perplexity can also be a relevant metric in other probabilistic models where prediction quality over sequences or distributions is crucial.

Several tools and platforms assist in the calculation and interpretation of perplexity:

NLTK. The Natural Language Toolkit provides utilities for building probabilistic language models and computes perplexity for evaluating these models.

TensorFlow and PyTorch. For deep learning-based language models, both these frameworks offer functionalities to compute crossentropy, which can then be translated into perplexity using the formula above.

Gensim. Mostly known for topic modeling, Gensim also contains methods to compute perplexity, particularly useful when evaluating the coherence of topics generated.

Similarities and Differences

Crossentropy, logloss, and perplexity are all metrics rooted in information theory and probabilistic modeling. Their main purpose is to evaluate the quality of predictions, be it for classification or probability distribution estimation. At a high level:

  • Crossentropy measures the dissimilarity between the true distribution and the predicted distribution.

  • Logloss is a specific instance of crossentropy, specifically tailored for binary or multi-class classification scenarios.

  • Perplexity, derived from crossentropy, gauges the uncertainty of a probabilistic model, with a main application in assessing sequence predictions.

As a universal metric, crossentropy is well-suited for problems where the goal is to approximate or match a particular probability distribution. It shines in multi-class classification tasks. Examples include image classification where each image could belong to one of several categories, or predicting the type of disease a patient might have based on their symptoms.

Tailored for classification, logloss becomes the go-to metric for binary and multi-class problems, penalizing confident incorrect predictions heavily. Its strength lies in its sensitivity to the exact probabilistic predictions.

For instance, in spam detection (spam or not spam), customer churn prediction (will churn or won't churn), or predicting if a given transaction is fraudulent.

At last, mainly used in language modeling, perplexity assesses how well a model predicts sequences. Lower values indicate a model that is more certain of its sequential predictions. It can be used for text generation tasks, machine translation, or speech recognition, where the model predicts the next word or phrase in a sequence.

While all three metrics deal with evaluating probabilistic models, their applicability diverges based on the nature of the task: distribution matching, classification, or sequence prediction.

An experienced machine learning professional selects the metric best suited for the task to ensure the most informative evaluation of model performance.


Recognizing the nuances of evaluation metrics such as crossentropy, logloss, and perplexity directly influences informed decision-making in machine learning projects. Each of these metrics, with their own distinct features and uses, largely influence the precision and trustworthiness of prediction models.

In ML, using platforms like TensorFlow, Scikit-learn, and NLTK makes calculating metrics easier and improves model evaluations. Always ensure that the chosen metric aligns with the project's goals for the best result.

Of course, applying well-known tools as you’re used to is easy, but truly understanding them may be more beneficial in the end. Keep learning, and pick the right metric for each task you face.