The CLUSTER Procedure


At each level of the clustering algorithm, PROC CLUSTER must identify the pair of clusters with the minimum distance. Sometimes, usually when the data are discrete, there can be two or more pairs with the same minimum distance. In such cases the tie must be broken in some arbitrary way. If there are ties, then the results of the cluster analysis depend on the order of the observations in the data set. The presence of ties is reported in the SAS log and in the column of the cluster history labeled Tie unless the NOTIE option is specified.

PROC CLUSTER breaks ties as follows. Each cluster is identified by the smallest observation number among its members. For each pair of clusters, there is a smaller identification number and a larger identification number. If two or more pairs of clusters are tied for minimum distance between clusters, the pair that has the minimum larger identification number is merged. If there is a tie for minimum larger identification number, the pair that has the minimum smaller identification number is merged.

A tie means that the level in the cluster history at which the tie occurred and possibly some of the subsequent levels are not uniquely determined. Ties that occur early in the cluster history usually have little effect on the later stages. Ties that occur in the middle part of the cluster history are cause for further investigation. Ties that occur late in the cluster history indicate important indeterminacies.

The importance of ties can be assessed by repeating the cluster analysis for several different random permutations of the observations. The discrepancies at a given level can be examined by crosstabulating the clusters obtained at that level for all of the permutations. See Example 33.4 for details.