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In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept

Self-Distillation for Further Pre-training of Transformers

Seanie Lee · Minki Kang · Juho Lee · Sung Ju Hwang · Kenji Kawaguchi

MH1-2-3-4 #23

Keywords: [ Deep Learning and representational learning ] [ adaptation of pre-trained models ] [ self-distillation ] [ regularization ]


Pre-training a large transformer model on a massive amount of unlabeled data and fine-tuning it on labeled datasets for diverse downstream tasks has proven to be a successful strategy, for a variety of vision and natural language processing tasks. However, direct fine-tuning of the pre-trained model may be suboptimal if there exist large discrepancies across data domains for pre-training and fine-tuning. To tackle this issue, several previous studies have proposed further pre-training strategies, where we continue to pre-train the model on the target unlabeled dataset before fine-tuning. However, all of them solely focus on language models and we empirically find that a Vision Transformer is vulnerable to overfitting as we continue to pretrain the model on target unlabeled data. In order to tackle this limitation, we propose self-distillation as a regularization for a further pre-training stage. Specifically, we first further pre-train the initial pre-trained model on the target unlabeled data and then consider it as a teacher for self-distillation. Then we take the same initial pre-trained model as a student and enforce its hidden representations to be close to those of the teacher while optimizing the student with a masked auto-encoding objective. We empirically validate the efficacy of self-distillation on a variety of benchmark datasets for image and text classification tasks. Experimentally, we show that our proposed method outperforms all the relevant baselines. Theoretically, we analyze the proposed method with a simplified model to understand how self-distillation for further pre-training can potentially help improve the performance of the downstream tasks.

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