The Adversarial Consistency of Surrogate Risks for Binary Classification

Natalie S. Frank, Jonathan Niles-Weed

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


We study the consistency of surrogate risks for robust binary classification. It is common to learn robust classifiers by adversarial training, which seeks to minimize the expected 0-1 loss when each example can be maliciously corrupted within a small ball. We give a simple and complete characterization of the set of surrogate loss functions that are consistent, i.e., that can replace the 0-1 loss without affecting the minimizing sequences of the original adversarial risk, for any data distribution. We also prove a quantitative version of adversarial consistency for the ρ-margin loss. Our results reveal that the class of adversarially consistent surrogates is substantially smaller than in the standard setting, where many common surrogates are known to be consistent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
StatePublished - 2023
Event37th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2023 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Dec 10 2023Dec 16 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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