Cross Validated is a question and answer site for people interested in statistics, machine learning, data analysis, data mining, and data visualization. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Can someone please tell me the difference between the kernels in SVM:

  1. Linear
  2. Polynomial
  3. Gaussian (RBF)
  4. Sigmoid

Because as we know that kernel is used to mapped our input space into high dimensionality feature space. And in that feature space, we find the linearly separable boundary..

When are they are used (under what condition) and why?

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The linear kernel is what you would expect, a linear model. I believe that the polynomial kernel is similar, but the boundary is of some defined but arbitrary order (e.g. y = b1 + b2X + b3X^2 + b4X^3).

RBF uses normal curves around the data points, and sums these so that the decision boundary can be defined by a type of topology condition such as curves where the sum is above a value of 0.5. (see this picture )

I am not certain what the sigmoid kernel is, unless it is similar to the logistic regression model where a logistic function is used to define curves according to where the logistic value is greater than some value (modeling probability), such as 0.5 like the normal case.

share|improve this answer
So, we can get the linierly separable hyperplane (boundary),if we use the linear kernel?? and if we use polynomial or RBF kernel, the (for polynomial)hyperlane could be a circle of grouped classes (for RBF) and curve ?? is that right?? – user3378327 Mar 21 '14 at 4:33
Each of the kernals work for high dimension versions of their respective boundaries. Does that answer your question? You are not limited to three dimensions for any kernel that I am aware of. – John Yetter Mar 21 '14 at 4:37
I just wanna make it clear. So the boundary by using linear kernel is a linear? For RBF is like a circle of grouped class?? and for polynomial, it can be curve based on the degree of the polynomial?? – user3378327 Mar 21 '14 at 4:48
I would not say RBF is a circle of grouped class. My understanding is that it applies a function based upon a normal distribution at each data point, and sums these functions. Then a boundary is formed by the curve representing a certain value on that function. If someone who has contributed to an SVM library could chime in, that might help. I think that your understanding of the other two kernels is correct. – John Yetter Mar 21 '14 at 5:01
U said that Linier Kernel is what I expected (to get linierly separable class) by using Kernel. and by using SVM classifier, we called it LINIER SVM. But how if we can get the linierly separable data without any kernel in SVM. What we call it?? Still Linier SVM or Non Linier SVM?? – user3378327 Mar 22 '14 at 9:24

This question can be answered from theoretical and practical point of view. From theoretical according to No-Free Lunch theorem states that there are no guarantees for one kernel to work better than the other. That is a-priori you never know nor you can find out which kernel will work better.

From practical point of view consult the following page:

How to select kernel for SVM?

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.