Interventional Contrastive Learning with Meta Semantic Regularizer
Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 162:18018-18030, 2022.
Contrastive learning (CL)-based self-supervised learning models learn visual representations in a pairwise manner. Although the prevailing CL model has achieved great progress, in this paper, we uncover an ever-overlooked phenomenon: When the CL model is trained with full images, the performance tested in full images is better than that in foreground areas; when the CL model is trained with foreground areas, the performance tested in full images is worse than that in foreground areas. This observation reveals that backgrounds in images may interfere with the model learning semantic information and their influence has not been fully eliminated. To tackle this issue, we build a Structural Causal Model (SCM) to model the background as a confounder. We propose a backdoor adjustment-based regularization method, namely Interventional Contrastive Learning with Meta Semantic Regularizer (ICL-MSR), to perform causal intervention towards the proposed SCM. ICL-MSR can be incorporated into any existing CL methods to alleviate background distractions from representation learning. Theoretically, we prove that ICL-MSR achieves a tighter error bound. Empirically, our experiments on multiple benchmark datasets demonstrate that ICL-MSR is able to improve the performances of different state-of-the-art CL methods.