The Role of Deconfounding in Meta-learning
Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 162:10161-10176, 2022.
Meta-learning has emerged as a potent paradigm for quick learning of few-shot tasks, by leveraging the meta-knowledge learned from meta-training tasks. Well-generalized meta-knowledge that facilitates fast adaptation in each task is preferred; however, recent evidence suggests the undesirable memorization effect where the meta-knowledge simply memorizing all meta-training tasks discourages task-specific adaptation and poorly generalizes. There have been several solutions to mitigating the effect, including both regularizer-based and augmentation-based methods, while a systematic understanding of these methods in a single framework is still lacking. In this paper, we offer a novel causal perspective of meta-learning. Through the lens of causality, we conclude the universal label space as a confounder to be the causing factor of memorization and frame the two lines of prevailing methods as different deconfounder approaches. Remarkably, derived from the causal inference principle of front-door adjustment, we propose two frustratingly easy but effective deconfounder algorithms, i.e., sampling multiple versions of the meta-knowledge via Dropout and grouping the meta-knowledge into multiple bins. The proposed causal perspective not only brings in the two deconfounder algorithms that surpass previous works in four benchmark datasets towards combating memorization, but also opens a promising direction for meta-learning.