The Effects of Regularization and Data Augmentation are Class Dependent

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Randall Balestriero, Leon Bottou, Yann LeCun


Regularization is a fundamental technique to prevent over-fitting and to improve generalization performances by constraining a model's complexity. Current Deep Networks heavily rely on regularizers such as Data-Augmentation (DA) or weight-decay, and employ structural risk minimization, i.e. cross-validation, to select the optimal regularization hyper-parameters. In this study, we demonstrate that techniques such as DA or weight decay produce a model with a reduced complexity that is unfair across classes. The optimal amount of DA or weight decay found from cross-validation over all classes leads to disastrous model performances on some classes e.g. on Imagenet with a resnet50, the ``barn spider'' classification test accuracy falls from $68\%$ to $46\%$ only by introducing random crop DA during training. Even more surprising, such performance drop also appears when introducing uninformative regularization techniques such as weight decay. Those results demonstrate that our search for ever increasing generalization performance ---averaged over all classes and samples--- has left us with models and regularizers that silently sacrifice performances on some classes. This scenario can become dangerous when deploying a model on downstream tasks e.g. an Imagenet pre-trained resnet50 deployed on INaturalist sees its performances fall from $70\%$ to $30\%$ on class \#8889 when introducing random crop DA during the Imagenet pre-training phase. Those results demonstrate that finding a correct measure of a model's complexity without class-dependent preference remains an open research question.