Towards Last-layer Retraining for Group Robustness with Fewer Annotations

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

Bibtex Paper


Tyler LaBonte, Vidya Muthukumar, Abhishek Kumar


Empirical risk minimization (ERM) of neural networks is prone to over-reliance on spurious correlations and poor generalization on minority groups. The recent deep feature reweighting (DFR) technique achieves state-of-the-art group robustness via simple last-layer retraining, but it requires held-out group and class annotations to construct a group-balanced reweighting dataset. In this work, we examine this impractical requirement and find that last-layer retraining can be surprisingly effective with no group annotations (other than for model selection) and only a handful of class annotations. We first show that last-layer retraining can greatly improve worst-group accuracy even when the reweighting dataset has only a small proportion of worst-group data. This implies a "free lunch" where holding out a subset of training data to retrain the last layer can substantially outperform ERM on the entire dataset with no additional data, annotations, or computation for training. To further improve group robustness, we introduce a lightweight method called selective last-layer finetuning (SELF), which constructs the reweighting dataset using misclassifications or disagreements. Our experiments present the first evidence that model disagreement upsamples worst-group data, enabling SELF to nearly match DFR on four well-established benchmarks across vision and language tasks with no group annotations and less than 3% of the held-out class annotations.