Within-layer Diversity Reduces Generalization Gap

Firas Laakom, Jenni Raitoharju, Alexandros Iosifidis, Moncef Gabbouj

Neural networks are composed of multiple layers arranged in a hierarchical structure jointly trained with a gradient-based optimization, where the errors are back-propagated from the last layer back to the first one. At each optimization step, neurons at a given layer receive feedback from neurons belonging to higher layers of the hierarchy. In this paper, we propose to complement this traditional 'between-layer' feedback with additional 'within-layer' feedback to encourage diversity of the activations within the same layer. To this end, we measure the pairwise similarity between the outputs of the neurons and use it to model the layer's overall diversity. By penalizing similarities and promoting diversity, we encourage each neuron to learn a distinctive representation and, thus, to enrich the data representation learned within the layer and to increase the total capacity of the model. We theoretically study how the within-layer activation diversity affects the generalization performance of a neural network and prove that increasing the diversity of hidden activations reduces the estimation error. In addition to the theoretical guarantees, we present an empirical study on three datasets confirming that the proposed approach enhances the performance of state-of-the-art neural network models and decreases the generalization gap.

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