Adversarial Unlearning: Reducing Confidence Along Adversarial Directions

Amrith Setlur, Benjamin Eysenbach, Virginia Smith, Sergey Levine

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Supervised learning methods trained with maximum likelihood objectives often overfit on training data. Most regularizers that prevent overfitting look to increase confidence on additional examples (e.g., data augmentation, adversarial training), or reduce it on training data (e.g., label smoothing). In this work we propose a complementary regularization strategy that reduces confidence on self-generated examples. The method, which we call RCAD (Reducing Confidence along Adversarial Directions), aims to reduce confidence on out-of-distribution examples lying along directions adversarially chosen to increase training loss. In contrast to adversarial training, RCAD does not try to robustify the model to output the original label, but rather regularizes it to have reduced confidence on points generated using much larger perturbations than in conventional adversarial training. RCAD can be easily integrated into training pipelines with a few lines of code. Despite its simplicity, we find on many classification benchmarks that RCAD can be added to existing techniques (e.g., label smoothing, MixUp training) to increase test accuracy by 1-3% in absolute value, with more significant gains in the low data regime. We also provide a theoretical analysis that helps to explain these benefits in simplified settings, showing that RCAD can provably help the model unlearn spurious features in the training data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 - 36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
EditorsS. Koyejo, S. Mohamed, A. Agarwal, D. Belgrave, K. Cho, A. Oh
PublisherNeural information processing systems foundation
ISBN (Electronic)9781713871088
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes
Event36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Nov 28 2022Dec 9 2022

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
ISSN (Print)1049-5258


Conference36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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