Unleashing the Power of Contrastive Self-Supervised Visual Models via Contrast-Regularized Fine-Tuning

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

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Yifan Zhang, Bryan Hooi, Dapeng Hu, Jian Liang, Jiashi Feng


Contrastive self-supervised learning (CSL) has attracted increasing attention for model pre-training via unlabeled data. The resulted CSL models provide instance-discriminative visual features that are uniformly scattered in the feature space. During deployment, the common practice is to directly fine-tune CSL models with cross-entropy, which however may not be the best strategy in practice. Although cross-entropy tends to separate inter-class features, the resulting models still have limited capability for reducing intra-class feature scattering that exists in CSL models. In this paper, we investigate whether applying contrastive learning to fine-tuning would bring further benefits, and analytically find that optimizing the contrastive loss benefits both discriminative representation learning and model optimization during fine-tuning. Inspired by these findings, we propose Contrast-regularized tuning (Core-tuning), a new approach for fine-tuning CSL models. Instead of simply adding the contrastive loss to the objective of fine-tuning, Core-tuning further applies a novel hard pair mining strategy for more effective contrastive fine-tuning, as well as smoothing the decision boundary to better exploit the learned discriminative feature space. Extensive experiments on image classification and semantic segmentation verify the effectiveness of Core-tuning.