Control Batch Size and Learning Rate to Generalize Well: Theoretical and Empirical Evidence

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Fengxiang He, Tongliang Liu, Dacheng Tao


Deep neural networks have received dramatic success based on the optimization method of stochastic gradient descent (SGD). However, it is still not clear how to tune hyper-parameters, especially batch size and learning rate, to ensure good generalization. This paper reports both theoretical and empirical evidence of a training strategy that we should control the ratio of batch size to learning rate not too large to achieve a good generalization ability. Specifically, we prove a PAC-Bayes generalization bound for neural networks trained by SGD, which has a positive correlation with the ratio of batch size to learning rate. This correlation builds the theoretical foundation of the training strategy. Furthermore, we conduct a large-scale experiment to verify the correlation and training strategy. We trained 1,600 models based on architectures ResNet-110, and VGG-19 with datasets CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100 while strictly control unrelated variables. Accuracies on the test sets are collected for the evaluation. Spearman's rank-order correlation coefficients and the corresponding $p$ values on 164 groups of the collected data demonstrate that the correlation is statistically significant, which fully supports the training strategy.