Implicit Sparse Regularization: The Impact of Depth and Early Stopping

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Jiangyuan Li, Thanh Nguyen, Chinmay Hegde, Ka Wai Wong


In this paper, we study the implicit bias of gradient descent for sparse regression. We extend results on regression with quadratic parametrization, which amounts to depth-2 diagonal linear networks, to more general depth-$N$ networks, under more realistic settings of noise and correlated designs. We show that early stopping is crucial for gradient descent to converge to a sparse model, a phenomenon that we call \emph{implicit sparse regularization}. This result is in sharp contrast to known results for noiseless and uncorrelated-design cases. We characterize the impact of depth and early stopping and show that for a general depth parameter $N$, gradient descent with early stopping achieves minimax optimal sparse recovery with sufficiently small initialization $w_0$ and step size $\eta$. In particular, we show that increasing depth enlarges the scale of working initialization and the early-stopping window so that this implicit sparse regularization effect is more likely to take place.