Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Beyond Vanilla Variational Autoencoders: Detecting Posterior Collapse in Conditional and Hierarchical Variational Autoencoders

Hien Dang · Tho-Huu Tran · Tan Nguyen · Nhat Ho

Halle B #117
[ ]
Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


The posterior collapse phenomenon in variational autoencoder (VAE), where the variational posterior distribution closely matches the prior distribution, can hinder the quality of the learned latent variables. As a consequence of posterior collapse, the latent variables extracted by the encoder in VAE preserve less information from the input data and thus fail to produce meaningful representations as input to the reconstruction process in the decoder. While this phenomenon has been an actively addressed topic related to VAE performance, the theory for posterior collapse remains underdeveloped, especially beyond the standard VAE. In this work, we advance the theoretical understanding of posterior collapse to two important and prevalent yet less studied classes of VAE: conditional VAE and hierarchical VAE. Specifically, via a non-trivial theoretical analysis of linear conditional VAE and hierarchical VAE with two levels of latent, we prove that the cause of posterior collapses in these models includes the correlation between the input and output of the conditional VAE and the effect of learnable encoder variance in the hierarchical VAE. We empirically validate our theoretical findings for linear conditional and hierarchical VAE and demonstrate that these results are also predictive for non-linear cases with extensive experiments.

Chat is not available.