Contrastive and Non-Contrastive Self-Supervised Learning Recover Global and Local Spectral Embedding Methods

Randall Balestriero, Yann LeCun

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


Self-Supervised Learning (SSL) surmises that inputs and pairwise positive relationships are enough to learn meaningful representations. Although SSL has recently reached a milestone: outperforming supervised methods in many modalities... the theoretical foundations are limited, method-specific, and fail to provide principled design guidelines to practitioners. In this paper, we propose a unifying framework under the helm of spectral manifold learning to address those limitations. Through the course of this study, we will rigorously demonstrate that VICReg, SimCLR, BarlowTwins et al. correspond to eponymous spectral methods such as Laplacian Eigenmaps, Multidimensional Scaling et al. This unification will then allow us to obtain (i) the closed-form optimal representation for each method, (ii) the closed-form optimal network parameters in the linear regime for each method, (iii) the impact of the pairwise relations used during training on each of those quantities and on downstream classification task performances, and most importantly, (iv) the first theoretical bridge between contrastive and non-contrastive methods towards global and local spectral embedding methods respectively, hinting at the benefits and limitations of each. For example, (i) if the pairwise relation is aligned with the downstream task, any SSL method can be employed successfully and will recover the supervised method, but in the low data regime, SimCLR or VICReg with high invariance hyper-parameter should be preferred; (ii) if the pairwise relation is misaligned with the downstream task, BarlowTwins or VICReg with small invariance hyper-parameter should be preferred.

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
ISSN (Print)1049-5258


Conference36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing

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