Revisiting Confidence Estimation: Towards Reliable Failure Prediction

5 Mar 2024  ·  Fei Zhu, Xu-Yao Zhang, Zhen Cheng, Cheng-Lin Liu ·

Reliable confidence estimation is a challenging yet fundamental requirement in many risk-sensitive applications. However, modern deep neural networks are often overconfident for their incorrect predictions, i.e., misclassified samples from known classes, and out-of-distribution (OOD) samples from unknown classes. In recent years, many confidence calibration and OOD detection methods have been developed. In this paper, we find a general, widely existing but actually-neglected phenomenon that most confidence estimation methods are harmful for detecting misclassification errors. We investigate this problem and reveal that popular calibration and OOD detection methods often lead to worse confidence separation between correctly classified and misclassified examples, making it difficult to decide whether to trust a prediction or not. Finally, we propose to enlarge the confidence gap by finding flat minima, which yields state-of-the-art failure prediction performance under various settings including balanced, long-tailed, and covariate-shift classification scenarios. Our study not only provides a strong baseline for reliable confidence estimation but also acts as a bridge between understanding calibration, OOD detection, and failure prediction. The code is available at \url{}.

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