Does enhanced shape bias improve neural network robustness to common corruptions?

Convolutional neural networks (CNNs) learn to extract representations of complex features, such as object shapes and textures to solve image recognition tasks. Recent work indicates that CNNs trained on ImageNet are biased towards features that encode textures and that these alone are sufficient to generalize to unseen test data from the same distribution as the training data but often fail to generalize to out-of-distribution data. It has been shown that augmenting the training data with different image styles decreases this texture bias in favor of increased shape bias while at the same time improving robustness to common corruptions, such as noise and blur. Commonly, this is interpreted as shape bias increasing corruption robustness. However, this relationship is only hypothesized. We perform a systematic study of different ways of composing inputs based on natural images, explicit edge information, and stylization. While stylization is essential for achieving high corruption robustness, we do not find a clear correlation between shape bias and robustness. We conclude that the data augmentation caused by style-variation accounts for the improved corruption robustness and increased shape bias is only a byproduct.

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