Active Feature Selection for the Mutual Information Criterion


  • Shachar Schnapp Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  • Sivan Sabato Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


Active Learning, Dimensionality Reduction/Feature Selection


We study active feature selection, a novel feature selection setting in which unlabeled data is available, but the budget for labels is limited, and the examples to label can be actively selected by the algorithm. We focus on feature selection using the classical mutual information criterion, which selects the k features with the largest mutual information with the label. In the active feature selection setting, the goal is to use significantly fewer labels than the data set size and still find k features whose mutual information with the label based on the entire data set is large. We explain and experimentally study the choices that we make in the algorithm, and show that they lead to a successful algorithm, compared to other more naive approaches. Our design draws on insights which relate the problem of active feature selection to the study of pure-exploration multi-armed bandits settings. While we focus here on mutual information, our general methodology can be adapted to other feature-quality measures as well. The extended version of this paper, reporting all experiment results, is available at Schnapp and Sabato (2020). The code is available at the following url:




How to Cite

Schnapp, S., & Sabato, S. (2021). Active Feature Selection for the Mutual Information Criterion. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 35(11), 9497-9504. Retrieved from



AAAI Technical Track on Machine Learning IV