Robust Learning with Progressive Data Expansion Against Spurious Correlation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Yihe Deng, Yu Yang, Baharan Mirzasoleiman, Quanquan Gu


While deep learning models have shown remarkable performance in various tasks, they are susceptible to learning non-generalizable _spurious features_ rather than the core features that are genuinely correlated to the true label. In this paper, beyond existing analyses of linear models, we theoretically examine the learning process of a two-layer nonlinear convolutional neural network in the presence of spurious features. Our analysis suggests that imbalanced data groups and easily learnable spurious features can lead to the dominance of spurious features during the learning process. In light of this, we propose a new training algorithm called **PDE** that efficiently enhances the model's robustness for a better worst-group performance. PDE begins with a group-balanced subset of training data and progressively expands it to facilitate the learning of the core features. Experiments on synthetic and real-world benchmark datasets confirm the superior performance of our method on models such as ResNets and Transformers. On average, our method achieves a $2.8$ \% improvement in worst-group accuracy compared with the state-of-the-art method, while enjoying up to $10\times$ faster training efficiency.