Average node depth in a Full Tree

May 14, 2013

While doing something else I stumbled upon the interesting problem of computing the average depth of nodes in a tree. The depth of a node is the distance that separates that node from the root. You can either decide that the root is at depth 1, or you can decide that it is at depth zero, but let’s decide on depth 1. So an immediate child of the root is at depth two, and its children at depth 3, and so on until you reach leaves, nodes with no children.

tree-diagram7

So the calculation of the average node depth (including leaves) in a tree comes interesting when we want to know how far a constructed tree is from the ideal full tree, as a measure of (application-specific) performance. After searching a bit on the web, I found only incomplete or incorrect formulas, or stated with proof. This week, let us see how we can derive the result without (too much) pain.

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