Understanding (Generalized) Label Smoothing when Learning with Noisy Labels

Jiaheng Wei, Hangyu Liu, Tongliang Liu, Gang Niu, Yang Liu

Label smoothing (LS) is an arising learning paradigm that uses the positively weighted average of both the hard training labels and uniformly distributed soft labels. It was shown that LS serves as a regularizer for training data with hard labels and therefore improves the generalization of the model. Later it was reported LS even helps with improving robustness when learning with noisy labels. However, we observe that the advantage of LS vanishes when we operate in a high label noise regime. Puzzled by the observation, we proceeded to discover that several proposed learning-with-noisy-labels solutions in the literature instead relate more closely to negative label smoothing (NLS), which defines as using a negative weight to combine the hard and soft labels! We show that NLS functions substantially differently from LS in their achieved model confidence. To differentiate the two cases, we will call LS the positive label smoothing (PLS), and this paper unifies PLS and NLS into generalized label smoothing (GLS). We provide understandings for the properties of GLS when learning with noisy labels. Among other established properties, we theoretically show NLS is considered more beneficial when the label noise rates are high. We provide experimental results to support our findings too.

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