Switching: Understanding the Class-reversed Sampling in Tail Sample Memorization

Chi Zhang (Xi'an Jiaotong Univiersity)*; Benyi Hu (Xi'an Jiaotong University); Yuhang Liuzhang (Xi'an Jiaotong University); Le Wang (Xi'an Jiaotong University); Li Liu (Inception Institute of Artificial Intelligence); Yuehu Liu (Xi'an Jiaotong University)


Long-tailed visual recognition poses significant challenges to traditional machine learning and emerging deep networks due to its inherent class imbalance. Existing reweighting and re-sampling methods, although effective, lack a fundamental theory while leaving the paradoxical effects of long tail unsolved, where network failing with head classes under-represented and tail classes overfitted. In this paper, we investigate long-tailed recognition from a memorization-generalization point of view, which not only unravels the whys of previous methods, but also derives a new principled solution. Specifically, we first empirically identify the regularity of classes under long-tailed distributions, finding that long-tailed challenge is essentially a trade-off between the representation of high-regularity head classes and generalization to low-regularity tail classes. To memorize tail samples without seriously damaging the representation of head samples, we propose a simple yet effective sampling strategy for ordinary mini-batch SGD optimization process, Switching, which switches from instance-balanced sampling to class-reversed sampling for only once at small learning rate. By theoretical analysis, we show that the upper bound on the generalization error of the proposed sampling strategy is lower than instance-balanced sampling conditionally. In our experiments, the proposed method can reach feasible performance more efficiently than current methods. Further experiments validate the superiority of the proposed Switching strategy, implying that the long-tailed learning trade-off could be parsimoniously tackled only in the memorization stage with a small learning rate and over-exposure of tail samples.