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Basic Feature Engineering with the Titanic Data

Today we are going to add a couple of features to the Titanic data set that I have discussed extensively, this will involve changing my data cleaning script. Following this I will test the new features using cross-validation to see if they made a difference. These new features come from reading the Kaggle forums and also this helpful blog post.


First up the Name column is currently not being used, but we can at least extract the title from the name. There are quite a few titles going around, but I want to reduce them all to Mrs, Miss, Mr and Master.  To do this we’ll need a function that searches for substrings. Thankfully the library ‘strings’ has just what we need.

import strings
def substrings_in_string(big_string, substrings):
    for substring in substrings:
        if string.find(big_string, substring) != -1:
            return substring
    print big_string
    return np.nan

Using this iteratively I was able to get a full list of titles.

title_list=['Mrs', 'Mr', 'Master', 'Miss', 'Major', 'Rev',
                    'Dr', 'Ms', 'Mlle','Col', 'Capt', 'Mme', 'Countess',
                    'Don', 'Jonkheer']

Now that I have them, I recombine them to the four categories.

df['Title']=df['Name'].map(lambda x: substrings_in_string(x, title_list))

#replacing all titles with mr, mrs, miss, master
def replace_titles(x):
    if title in ['Don', 'Major', 'Capt', 'Jonkheer', 'Rev', 'Col']:
        return 'Mr'
    elif title in ['Countess', 'Mme']:
        return 'Mrs'
    elif title in ['Mlle', 'Ms']:
        return 'Miss'
    elif title =='Dr':
        if x['Sex']=='Male':
            return 'Mr'
            return 'Mrs'
        return title
df['Title']=df.apply(replace_titles, axis=1)

You may be interested to know that ‘Jonkheer’ is a male honorific for Dutch nobility. Also interesting is that I was tempted to just send ‘Dr’ -> ‘Mr’, but decided to check first, and there was indeed a female doctor aboard! It seems 1912 was further ahead of its time than Doctor Who!

Curious, I looked her up: her name was Dr. Alice Leader, and she and her husband were physicians in New York city.

But I digress. On to the decks.

This is going be very similar, we have a ‘Cabin’ column not doing much, only 1st class passengers have cabins, the rest are ‘Unknown’. A cabin number looks like ‘C123’. The letter refers to the deck, and so we’re going to extract these just like the titles.

#Turning cabin number into Deck
cabin_list = ['A', 'B', 'C', 'D', 'E', 'F', 'T', 'G', 'Unknown']
df['Deck']=df['Cabin'].map(lambda x: substrings_in_string(x, cabin_list))

Family Size
One thing you can do to create new features is linear combinations of features. In a model like linear regression this should be unnecessary, but for a decision tree may find it hard to model such relationships. Reading on the forums at Kaggle, some people have considered the size of a person’s family, the sum of their ‘SibSp’ and ‘Parch’ attributes. Perhaps people traveling alone did better? Or on the other hand perhaps if you had a family, you might have risked your life looking for them, or even giving up a space up to them in a lifeboat. Let’s throw that into the mix.

#Creating new family_size column

This is an interaction term, since age and class are both numbers we can just multiply them.


Fare per Person

Here we divide the fare by the number of family members traveling together, I’m not exactly sure what this represents, but it’s easy enough to add in.


Get The Code
I have incorporated these new features in a new data cleaning cleantitanic2.py script, which you can download here.

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