I am doing regression on a numeric dataset. This dataset is combined from 2 sources (one is from real-life data, one is from synthetic data). When I run cross-validation on this combined data, I get a correlation coefficient of 0.9. But when I train the model on the combined data, but test it only on real-life data, I get a correlation coefficient of 0.2.

I know that correlation coefficient gives the quality of least squares fitting, so in that case why would my model performs well on combined data but performs bad on real-life data (even though I trained my model on it)? I read some book sections on correlation coefficient, but intuitively I can't comment on why I am getting this result.

  • $\begingroup$ This look like a duplicate of stats.stackexchange.com/questions/61173/… In general, it doesn't surprise me that real data are more problematic than synthetic data. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Jun 10, 2013 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ What is the number of observations in the synthetic data, and what is the number of observations in real-life data? Is the former bigger than the latter? $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2013 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ Yes the real data is %10 of the synthetic data. Is it why I get a low correlation when I use the subset of the data? My main confusion is: since I also use the real data in the training phase and get good correlation, I am surprised to get such a low correlation when I use a subset of this data. Is the main reason the size of the test set? $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2013 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


My guess based on your commentary:

Once the synthetic data is much bigger than the real-life data, the correlation coefficient is being weighted mainly for the synthetic data.

Your real life-data are probably outliers in comparison with synthetic data values.

This is the reason you are getting low r² and probably high RMSE on validation phase.
Putting in another way: it was almost like fitting a model to a dataset A, and try to validate it with a dataset B with very different features from A.


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