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Towards Deep Attention in Graph Neural Networks: Problems and Remedies

Soo Yong Lee · Fanchen Bu · Jaemin Yoo · Kijung Shin

Exhibit Hall 1 #509


Graph neural networks (GNNs) learn the representation of graph-structured data, and their expressiveness can be further enhanced by inferring node relations for propagation. Attention-based GNNs infer neighbor importance to manipulate the weight of its propagation. Despite their popularity, the discussion on deep graph attention and its unique challenges has been limited. In this work, we investigate some problematic phenomena related to deep graph attention, including vulnerability to over-smoothed features and smooth cumulative attention. Through theoretical and empirical analyses, we show that various attention-based GNNs suffer from these problems. Motivated by our findings, we propose AERO-GNN, a novel GNN architecture designed for deep graph attention. AERO-GNN provably mitigates the proposed problems of deep graph attention, which is further empirically demonstrated with (a) its adaptive and less smooth attention functions and (b) higher performance at deep layers (up to 64). On 9 out of 12 node classification benchmarks, AERO-GNN outperforms the baseline GNNs, highlighting the advantages of deep graph attention. Our code is available at

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