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A Theory-Driven Self-Labeling Refinement Method for Contrastive Representation Learning

Pan Zhou · Caiming Xiong · Xiaotong Yuan · Steven Chu Hong Hoi

Keywords: [ Representation Learning ] [ Theory ] [ Contrastive Learning ] [ Machine Learning ] [ Self-Supervised Learning ]


For an image query, unsupervised contrastive learning labels crops of the same image as positives, and other image crops as negatives. Although intuitive, such a native label assignment strategy cannot reveal the underlying semantic similarity between a query and its positives and negatives, and impairs performance, since some negatives are semantically similar to the query or even share the same semantic class as the query. In this work, we first prove that for contrastive learning, inaccurate label assignment heavily impairs its generalization for semantic instance discrimination, while accurate labels benefit its generalization. Inspired by this theory, we propose a novel self-labeling refinement approach for contrastive learning. It improves the label quality via two complementary modules: (i) self-labeling refinery (SLR) to generate accurate labels and (ii) momentum mixup (MM) to enhance similarity between query and its positive. SLR uses a positive of a query to estimate semantic similarity between a query and its positive and negatives, and combines estimated similarity with vanilla label assignment in contrastive learning to iteratively generate more accurate and informative soft labels. We theoretically show that our SLR can exactly recover the true semantic labels of label-corrupted data, and supervises networks to achieve zero prediction error on classification tasks. MM randomly combines queries and positives to increase semantic similarity between the generated virtual queries and their positives so as to improves label accuracy. Experimental results on CIFAR10, ImageNet, VOC and COCO show the effectiveness of our method.

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