Bridging the Gap: Unifying the Training and Evaluation of Neural Network Binary Classifiers

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Nathan Tsoi, Kate Candon, Deyuan Li, Yofti Milkessa, Marynel Vázquez


While neural network binary classifiers are often evaluated on metrics such as Accuracy and $F_1$-Score, they are commonly trained with a cross-entropy objective. How can this training-evaluation gap be addressed? While specific techniques have been adopted to optimize certain confusion matrix based metrics, it is challenging or impossible in some cases to generalize the techniques to other metrics. Adversarial learning approaches have also been proposed to optimize networks via confusion matrix based metrics, but they tend to be much slower than common training methods. In this work, we propose a unifying approach to training neural network binary classifiers that combines a differentiable approximation of the Heaviside function with a probabilistic view of the typical confusion matrix values using soft sets. Our theoretical analysis shows the benefit of using our method to optimize for a given evaluation metric, such as $F_1$-Score, with soft sets, and our extensive experiments show the effectiveness of our approach in several domains.