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TransHP: Image Classification with Hierarchical Prompting

Wenhao Wang · Yifan Sun · Wei Li · Yi Yang

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #327
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Thu 14 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


This paper explores a hierarchical prompting mechanism for the hierarchical image classification (HIC) task. Different from prior HIC methods, our hierarchical prompting is the first to explicitly inject ancestor-class information as a tokenized hint that benefits the descendant-class discrimination. We think it well imitates human visual recognition, i.e., humans may use the ancestor class as a prompt to draw focus on the subtle differences among descendant classes. We model this prompting mechanism into a Transformer with Hierarchical Prompting (TransHP). TransHP consists of three steps: 1) learning a set of prompt tokens to represent the coarse (ancestor) classes, 2) on-the-fly predicting the coarse class of the input image at an intermediate block, and 3) injecting the prompt token of the predicted coarse class into the intermediate feature. Though the parameters of TransHP maintain the same for all input images, the injected coarse-class prompt conditions (modifies) the subsequent feature extraction and encourages a dynamic focus on relatively subtle differences among the descendant classes. Extensive experiments show that TransHP improves image classification on accuracy (e.g., improving ViT-B/16 by +2.83% ImageNet classification accuracy), training data efficiency (e.g., +12.69% improvement under 10% ImageNet training data), and model explainability. Moreover, TransHP also performs favorably against prior HIC methods, showing that TransHP well exploits the hierarchical information. The code is available at:

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