In What Ways Are Deep Neural Networks Invariant and How Should We Measure This?

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Henry Kvinge, Tegan Emerson, Grayson Jorgenson, Scott Vasquez, Tim Doster, Jesse Lew


It is often said that a deep learning model is ``invariant'' to some specific type of transformation. However, what is meant by this statement strongly depends on the context in which it is made. In this paper we explore the nature of invariance and equivariance of deep learning models with the goal of better understanding the ways that they actually capture these concepts on a formal level. We introduce a family of invariance and equivariance metrics that allow us to quantify these properties in a way that disentangles them from other metrics such as loss or accuracy. We use our metrics to better understand the two most popular methods used to build invariance into networks, data augmentation and equivariant layers. We draw a range of conclusions about invariance and equivariance in deep learning models, ranging from whether initializing a model with pretrained weights has an effect on a trained model's invariance, to the extent to which invariance learned via training can generalize to out-of-distribution data.