Understanding the Generalization Benefit of Normalization Layers: Sharpness Reduction

Kaifeng Lyu, Zhiyuan Li, Sanjeev Arora

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

6 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
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
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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