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Could somebody explain this difference just as simple as possible?

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Pattern recognition is the “automated discovery of patterns in a training set”, and so it is a general term for machine learning.

Classification is the supervised learning problem whose target value is a finite set of classes (as opposed to regression, wherein the target value is a continuous variable).

Therefore, classification is a kind of pattern recognition problem.

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  • $\begingroup$ well stated: I had not considered pattern recognition to be nearly synonymous with ML $\endgroup$ – StephenBoesch Dec 23 '17 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @javadba To be honest, I lifted that from Bishop's introduction in “Pattern recognition and machine learning”. $\endgroup$ – Neil G Dec 23 '17 at 16:35
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Classification is simply a more general term than pattern recognition. In both cases, you have a set of classes $K$ and a collection of observations, where each observation is represented by a set of features. Your job is to find a mapping of features to a member of $K$ such that you minimize some measure/estimate of out-of-sample classification error.

In pattern recognition, you are simply using a very complex/large feature space. For example, facial recognition will have an input space equal to the number of pixels in the image. This is no different than classifying a loan application as high or low risk based on several measures of creditworthiness.

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