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A study of graph spectra for comparing graphs and trees

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Publication details

JournalPattern recognition
DatePublished - 1 Sep 2008
Issue number9
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)2833-2841
Original languageEnglish


The spectrum of a graph has been widely used in graph theory to characterise the properties of a graph and extract information from its structure. It has also been employed as a graph representation for pattern matching since it is invariant to the labelling of the graph. There are, however, a number of potential drawbacks in using the spectrum as a representation of a graph. Firstly, more than one graph may share the same spectrum. It is well known, for example, that very few trees can be uniquely specified by their spectrum. Secondly, the spectrum may change dramatically with a small change structure.

There are a wide variety of graph matrix representations from which the spectrum can be extracted. Among these are the adjacency matrix, combinatorial Laplacian, normalised Laplacian and unsigned Laplacian. Spectra can also be derived from the heat kernel matrix and path length distribution matrix. The choice of matrix representation clearly has a large effect on the suitability of spectrum in a number of pattern recognition tasks.

In this paper we investigate the performance of the spectra as a graph representation in a variety of situations. Firstly, we investigate the cospectrality of the various matrix representations over large graph and tree sets, extending the work of previous authors. We then show that the Euclidean distance between spectra tracks the edit distance between graphs over a wide range of edit costs, and we analyse the accuracy of this relationship. We then use the spectra to both cluster and classify the graphs and demonstrate the effect of the graph matrix formulation on error rates. These results are produced using both synthetic graphs and trees and graphs derived from shape and image data.

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