On the Generalization Properties of Diffusion Models

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Puheng Li, Zhong Li, Huishuai Zhang, Jiang Bian


Diffusion models are a class of generative models that serve to establish a stochastic transport map between an empirically observed, yet unknown, target distribution and a known prior. Despite their remarkable success in real-world applications, a theoretical understanding of their generalization capabilities remains underdeveloped. This work embarks on a comprehensive theoretical exploration of the generalization attributes of diffusion models. We establish the theoretical estimates of the generalization gap that evolves in tandem with the training dynamics of score-based diffusion models, suggesting a polynomially small generalization error ($O(n^{-2/5}+m^{-4/5})$) on both the sample size $n$ and the model capacity $m$, evading the curse of dimensionality (i.e., independent of the data dimension) when *early-stopped*. Furthermore, we extend our quantitative analysis to a *data-dependent* scenario, wherein target distributions are portrayed as a succession of densities with progressively increasing distances between modes. This precisely elucidates the *adverse* effect of "*modes shift*'' in ground truths on the model generalization. Furthermore, these estimates are not solely theoretical constructs but have also been confirmed through numerical simulations. Our findings contribute to the rigorous understanding of diffusion models' generalization properties and provide insights that may guide practical applications.