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Large-Margin Contrastive Learning with Distance Polarization Regularizer

Shuo Chen · Gang Niu · Chen Gong · Jun Li · Jian Yang · Masashi Sugiyama

Keywords: [ Algorithms ] [ Unsupervised Learning ]


\emph{Contrastive learning}~(CL) pretrains models in a pairwise manner, where given a data point, other data points are all regarded as dissimilar, including some that are \emph{semantically} similar. The issue has been addressed by properly weighting similar and dissimilar pairs as in \emph{positive-unlabeled learning}, so that the objective of CL is \emph{unbiased} and CL is \emph{consistent}. However, in this paper, we argue that this great solution is still not enough: its weighted objective \emph{hides} the issue where the semantically similar pairs are still pushed away; as CL is pretraining, this phenomenon is not our desideratum and might affect downstream tasks. To this end, we propose \emph{large-margin contrastive learning}~(LMCL) with \emph{distance polarization regularizer}, motivated by the distribution characteristic of pairwise distances in \emph{metric learning}. In LMCL, we can distinguish between \emph{intra-cluster} and \emph{inter-cluster} pairs, and then only push away inter-cluster pairs, which \emph{solves} the above issue explicitly. Theoretically, we prove a tighter error bound for LMCL; empirically, the superiority of LMCL is demonstrated across multiple domains, \emph{i.e.}, image classification, sentence representation, and reinforcement learning.

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