Learning explanations that are hard to vary

Giambattista Parascandolo · Alexander Neitz · Antonio Orvieto · Luigi Gresele · Bernhard Schoelkopf

Keywords: [ invariances ] [ consistency ] [ gradient alignment ]


In this paper, we investigate the principle that good explanations are hard to vary in the context of deep learning. We show that averaging gradients across examples -- akin to a logical OR of patterns -- can favor memorization and `patchwork' solutions that sew together different strategies, instead of identifying invariances. To inspect this, we first formalize a notion of consistency for minima of the loss surface, which measures to what extent a minimum appears only when examples are pooled. We then propose and experimentally validate a simple alternative algorithm based on a logical AND, that focuses on invariances and prevents memorization in a set of real-world tasks. Finally, using a synthetic dataset with a clear distinction between invariant and spurious mechanisms, we dissect learning signals and compare this approach to well-established regularizers.

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