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Abstraction Mechanisms Predict Generalization in Deep Neural Networks

Alex Gain · Hava Siegelmann


Keywords: [ Deep Learning Theory ] [ Information Theory and Estimation ] [ Neuroscience and Cognitive Science ] [ Applications - Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Biology and Health ]


A longstanding problem for Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) is understanding their puzzling ability to generalize well. We approach this problem through the unconventional angle of \textit{cognitive abstraction mechanisms}, drawing inspiration from recent neuroscience work, allowing us to define the Cognitive Neural Activation metric (CNA) for DNNs, which is the correlation between information complexity (entropy) of given input and the concentration of higher activation values in deeper layers of the network. The CNA is highly predictive of generalization ability, outperforming norm-and-sharpness-based generalization metrics on an extensive evaluation of close to 200 network instances comprising a breadth of dataset-architecture combinations, especially in cases where additive noise is present and/or training labels are corrupted. These strong empirical results show the usefulness of the CNA as a generalization metric and encourage further research on the connection between information complexity and representations in the deeper layers of networks in order to better understand the generalization capabilities of DNNs.

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