Robust Contrastive Learning Using Negative Samples with Diminished Semantics

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

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Songwei Ge, Shlok Mishra, Chun-Liang Li, Haohan Wang, David Jacobs


Unsupervised learning has recently made exceptional progress because of the development of more effective contrastive learning methods. However, CNNs are prone to depend on low-level features that humans deem non-semantic. This dependency has been conjectured to induce a lack of robustness to image perturbations or domain shift. In this paper, we show that by generating carefully designed negative samples, contrastive learning can learn more robust representations with less dependence on such features. Contrastive learning utilizes positive pairs which preserve semantic information while perturbing superficial features in the training images. Similarly, we propose to generate negative samples in a reversed way, where only the superfluous instead of the semantic features are preserved. We develop two methods, texture-based and patch-based augmentations, to generate negative samples. These samples achieve better generalization, especially under out-of-domain settings. We also analyze our method and the generated texture-based samples, showing that texture features are indispensable in classifying particular ImageNet classes and especially finer classes. We also show that the model bias between texture and shape features favors them differently under different test settings.