Architecture Matters: Uncovering Implicit Mechanisms in Graph Contrastive Learning

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Xiaojun Guo, Yifei Wang, Zeming Wei, Yisen Wang


With the prosperity of contrastive learning for visual representation learning (VCL), it is also adapted to the graph domain and yields promising performance. However, through a systematic study of various graph contrastive learning (GCL) methods, we observe that some common phenomena among existing GCL methods that are quite different from the original VCL methods, including 1) positive samples are not a must for GCL; 2) negative samples are not necessary for graph classification, neither for node classification when adopting specific normalization modules; 3) data augmentations have much less influence on GCL, as simple domain-agnostic augmentations (e.g., Gaussian noise) can also attain fairly good performance. By uncovering how the implicit inductive bias of GNNs works in contrastive learning, we theoretically provide insights into the above intriguing properties of GCL. Rather than directly porting existing VCL methods to GCL, we advocate for more attention toward the unique architecture of graph learning and consider its implicit influence when designing GCL methods. Code is available at