Shape or Texture: Understanding Discriminative Features in CNNs

Md Amirul Islam · Matthew Kowal · Patrick Esser · Sen Jia · Bj√∂rn Ommer · Kosta Derpanis · Neil Bruce

Keywords: [ Shape Encoding ] [ Texture Bias ] [ Shape Bias ] [ Texture ] [ Shape ] [ Mutual Information ]


Contrasting the previous evidence that neurons in the later layers of a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) respond to complex object shapes, recent studies have shown that CNNs actually exhibit a 'texture bias': given an image with both texture and shape cues (e.g., a stylized image), a CNN is biased towards predicting the category corresponding to the texture. However, these previous studies conduct experiments on the final classification output of the network, and fail to robustly evaluate the bias contained (i) in the latent representations, and (ii) on a per-pixel level. In this paper, we design a series of experiments that overcome these issues. We do this with the goal of better understanding what type of shape information contained in the network is discriminative, where shape information is encoded, as well as when the network learns about object shape during training. We show that a network learns the majority of overall shape information at the first few epochs of training and that this information is largely encoded in the last few layers of a CNN. Finally, we show that the encoding of shape does not imply the encoding of localized per-pixel semantic information. The experimental results and findings provide a more accurate understanding of the behaviour of current CNNs, thus helping to inform future design choices.

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