CARD: Classification and Regression Diffusion Models

15 Jun 2022  ·  Xizewen Han, Huangjie Zheng, Mingyuan Zhou ·

Learning the distribution of a continuous or categorical response variable $\boldsymbol y$ given its covariates $\boldsymbol x$ is a fundamental problem in statistics and machine learning. Deep neural network-based supervised learning algorithms have made great progress in predicting the mean of $\boldsymbol y$ given $\boldsymbol x$, but they are often criticized for their ability to accurately capture the uncertainty of their predictions. In this paper, we introduce classification and regression diffusion (CARD) models, which combine a denoising diffusion-based conditional generative model and a pre-trained conditional mean estimator, to accurately predict the distribution of $\boldsymbol y$ given $\boldsymbol x$. We demonstrate the outstanding ability of CARD in conditional distribution prediction with both toy examples and real-world datasets, the experimental results on which show that CARD in general outperforms state-of-the-art methods, including Bayesian neural network-based ones that are designed for uncertainty estimation, especially when the conditional distribution of $\boldsymbol y$ given $\boldsymbol x$ is multi-modal. In addition, we utilize the stochastic nature of the generative model outputs to obtain a finer granularity in model confidence assessment at the instance level for classification tasks.

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