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On the Limitations of Temperature Scaling for Distributions with Overlaps

Muthu Chidambaram · Rong Ge

Halle B #201
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Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Despite the impressive generalization capabilities of deep neural networks, they have been repeatedly shown to be overconfident when they are wrong. Fixing this issue is known as model calibration, and has consequently received much attention in the form of modified training schemes and post-training calibration procedures such as temperature scaling. While temperature scaling is frequently used because of its simplicity, it is often outperformed by modified training schemes. In this work, we identify a specific bottleneck for the performance of temperature scaling. We show that for empirical risk minimizers for a general set of distributions in which the supports of classes have overlaps, the performance of temperature scaling degrades with the amount of overlap between classes, and asymptotically becomes no better than random when there are a large number of classes. On the other hand, we prove that optimizing a modified form of the empirical risk induced by the Mixup data augmentation technique can in fact lead to reasonably good calibration performance, showing that training-time calibration may be necessary in some situations. We also verify that our theoretical results reflect practice by showing that Mixup significantly outperforms empirical risk minimization (with respect to multiple calibration metrics) on image classification benchmarks with class overlaps introduced in the form of label noise.

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