Function-Space Regularization in Neural Networks: A Probabilistic Perspective

Tim G.J. Rudner, Sanyam Kapoor, Shikai Qiu, Andrew Gordon Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Parameter-space regularization in neural network optimization is a fundamental tool for improving generalization. However, standard parameter-space regularization methods make it challenging to encode explicit preferences about desired predictive functions into neural network training. In this work, we approach regularization in neural networks from a probabilistic perspective and show that by viewing parameter-space regularization as specifying an empirical prior distribution over the model parameters, we can derive a probabilistically well-motivated regularization technique that allows explicitly encoding information about desired predictive functions into neural network training. This method-which we refer to as function-space empirical Bayes (FS-EB)-includes both parameter- and function-space regularization, is mathematically simple, easy to implement, and incurs only minimal computational overhead compared to standard regularization techniques. We evaluate the utility of this regularization technique empirically and demonstrate that the proposed method leads to near-perfect semantic shift detection, highly-calibrated predictive uncertainty estimates, successful task adaption from pre-trained models, and improved generalization under covariate shift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29275-29290
Number of pages16
JournalProceedings of Machine Learning Research
StatePublished - 2023
Event40th International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML 2023 - Honolulu, United States
Duration: Jul 23 2023Jul 29 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Statistics and Probability


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