Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Approximation-Generalization Trade-offs under (Approximate) Group Equivariance

Mircea Petrache · Shubhendu Trivedi

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1724
[ ]
[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Wed 13 Dec 8:45 a.m. PST — 10:45 a.m. PST


The explicit incorporation of task-specific inductive biases through symmetry has emerged as a general design precept in the development of high-performance machine learning models. For example, group equivariant neural networks have demonstrated impressive performance across various domains and applications such as protein and drug design. A prevalent intuition about such models is that the integration of relevant symmetry results in enhanced generalization. Moreover, it is posited that when the data and/or the model exhibits only approximate or partial symmetry, the optimal or best-performing model is one where the model symmetry aligns with the data symmetry. In this paper, we conduct a formal unified investigation of these intuitions. To begin, we present quantitative bounds that demonstrate how models capturing task-specific symmetries lead to improved generalization. Utilizing this quantification, we examine the more general question of dealing with approximate/partial symmetries. We establish, for a given symmetry group, a quantitative comparison between the approximate equivariance of the model and that of the data distribution, precisely connecting model equivariance error and data equivariance error. Our result delineates the conditions under which the model equivariance error is optimal, thereby yielding the best-performing model for the given task and data.

Chat is not available.