Learning Trajectories are Generalization Indicators

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Jingwen Fu, Zhizheng Zhang, Dacheng Yin, Yan Lu, Nanning Zheng


This paper explores the connection between learning trajectories of Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) and their generalization capabilities when optimized using (stochastic) gradient descent algorithms. Instead of concentrating solely on the generalization error of the DNN post-training, we present a novel perspective for analyzing generalization error by investigating the contribution of each update step to the change in generalization error. This perspective enable a more direct comprehension of how the learning trajectory influences generalization error. Building upon this analysis, we propose a new generalization bound that incorporates more extensive trajectory information.Our proposed generalization bound depends on the complexity of learning trajectory and the ratio between the bias and diversity of training set. Experimental observations reveal that our method effectively captures the generalization error throughout the training process. Furthermore, our approach can also track changes in generalization error when adjustments are made to learning rates and label noise levels. These results demonstrate that learning trajectory information is a valuable indicator of a model's generalization capabilities.