Graph Neural Networks Exponentially Lose Expressive Power for Node Classification

Kenta Oono, Taiji Suzuki

Keywords: expressive power, graph networks

Wednesday: Theory

Abstract: Graph Neural Networks (graph NNs) are a promising deep learning approach for analyzing graph-structured data. However, it is known that they do not improve (or sometimes worsen) their predictive performance as we pile up many layers and add non-lineality. To tackle this problem, we investigate the expressive power of graph NNs via their asymptotic behaviors as the layer size tends to infinity. Our strategy is to generalize the forward propagation of a Graph Convolutional Network (GCN), which is a popular graph NN variant, as a specific dynamical system. In the case of a GCN, we show that when its weights satisfy the conditions determined by the spectra of the (augmented) normalized Laplacian, its output exponentially approaches the set of signals that carry information of the connected components and node degrees only for distinguishing nodes. Our theory enables us to relate the expressive power of GCNs with the topological information of the underlying graphs inherent in the graph spectra. To demonstrate this, we characterize the asymptotic behavior of GCNs on the Erd\H{o}s -- R\'{e}nyi graph. We show that when the Erd\H{o}s -- R\'{e}nyi graph is sufficiently dense and large, a broad range of GCNs on it suffers from the ``information loss" in the limit of infinite layers with high probability. Based on the theory, we provide a principled guideline for weight normalization of graph NNs. We experimentally confirm that the proposed weight scaling enhances the predictive performance of GCNs in real data. Code is available at

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