Understanding and Improving Early Stopping for Learning with Noisy Labels

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Yingbin Bai, Erkun Yang, Bo Han, Yanhua Yang, Jiatong Li, Yinian Mao, Gang Niu, Tongliang Liu


The memorization effect of deep neural network (DNN) plays a pivotal role in many state-of-the-art label-noise learning methods. To exploit this property, the early stopping trick, which stops the optimization at the early stage of training, is usually adopted. Current methods generally decide the early stopping point by considering a DNN as a whole. However, a DNN can be considered as a composition of a series of layers, and we find that the latter layers in a DNN are much more sensitive to label noise, while their former counterparts are quite robust. Therefore, selecting a stopping point for the whole network may make different DNN layers antagonistically affect each other, thus degrading the final performance. In this paper, we propose to separate a DNN into different parts and progressively train them to address this problem. Instead of the early stopping which trains a whole DNN all at once, we initially train former DNN layers by optimizing the DNN with a relatively large number of epochs. During training, we progressively train the latter DNN layers by using a smaller number of epochs with the preceding layers fixed to counteract the impact of noisy labels. We term the proposed method as progressive early stopping (PES). Despite its simplicity, compared with the traditional early stopping, PES can help to obtain more promising and stable results. Furthermore, by combining PES with existing approaches on noisy label training, we achieve state-of-the-art performance on image classification benchmarks. The code is made public at https://github.com/tmllab/PES.