Early-Learning Regularization Prevents Memorization of Noisy Labels

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2020)

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Sheng Liu, Jonathan Niles-Weed, Narges Razavian, Carlos Fernandez-Granda


<p>We propose a novel framework to perform classification via deep learning in the presence of noisy annotations. When trained on noisy labels, deep neural networks have been observed to first fit the training data with clean labels during an "early learning" phase, before eventually memorizing the examples with false labels. We prove that early learning and memorization are fundamental phenomena in high-dimensional classification tasks, even in simple linear models, and give a theoretical explanation in this setting. Motivated by these findings, we develop a new technique for noisy classification tasks, which exploits the progress of the early learning phase. In contrast with existing approaches, which use the model output during early learning to detect the examples with clean labels, and either ignore or attempt to correct the false labels, we take a different route and instead capitalize on early learning via regularization. There are two key elements to our approach. First, we leverage semi-supervised learning techniques to produce target probabilities based on the model outputs. Second, we design a regularization term that steers the model towards these targets, implicitly preventing memorization of the false labels. The resulting framework is shown to provide robustness to noisy annotations on several standard benchmarks and real-world datasets, where it achieves results comparable to the state of the art.</p>