Understanding the Generalization Benefit of Normalization Layers: Sharpness Reduction

Kaifeng Lyu, Zhiyuan Li, Sanjeev Arora

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

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Normalization layers (e.g., Batch Normalization, Layer Normalization) were introduced to help with optimization difficulties in very deep nets, but they clearly also help generalization, even in not-so-deep nets. Motivated by the long-held belief that flatter minima lead to better generalization, this paper gives mathematical analysis and supporting experiments suggesting that normalization (together with accompanying weight-decay) encourages GD to reduce the sharpness of loss surface. Here “sharpness” is carefully defined given that the loss is scale-invariant, a known consequence of normalization. Specifically, for a fairly broad class of neural nets with normalization, our theory explains how GD with a finite learning rate enters the so-called Edge of Stability (EoS) regime, and characterizes the trajectory of GD in this regime via a continuous sharpness-reduction flow.

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
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
Volume35
ISSN (Print)1049-5258

Conference

Conference36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans
Period11/28/2212/9/22

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing

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