Implicit Bias of MSE Gradient Optimization in Underparameterized Neural Networks

Benjamin Bowman, Guido Montufar

We study the dynamics of a neural network in function space when optimizing the mean squared error via gradient flow. We show that in the underparameterized regime the network learns eigenfunctions of an integral operator $T_{K^\infty}$ determined by the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK) at rates corresponding to their eigenvalues. For example, for uniformly distributed data on the sphere $S^{d - 1}$ and rotation invariant weight distributions, the eigenfunctions of $T_{K^\infty}$ are the spherical harmonics. Our results can be understood as describing a spectral bias in the underparameterized regime. The proofs use the concept of "Damped Deviations", where deviations of the NTK matter less for eigendirections with large eigenvalues due to the occurence of a damping factor. Aside from the underparameterized regime, the damped deviations point-of-view can be used to track the dynamics of the empirical risk in the overparameterized setting, allowing us to extend certain results in the literature. We conclude that damped deviations offers a simple and unifying perspective of the dynamics when optimizing the squared error.

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