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Improving Out-of-Distribution Generalization by Adversarial Training with Structured Priors

Qixun Wang · Yifei Wang · Hong Zhu · Yisen Wang


Deep models often fail to generalize well in test domains when the data distribution differs from that in the training domain. Among numerous approaches to address this Out-of-Distribution (OOD) generalization problem, there has been a growing surge of interest in exploiting Adversarial Training (AT) to improve OOD performance. Recent works have revealed that the robust model obtained by conducting sample-wise AT also retains transferability to biased test domains. In this paper, we empirically show that sample-wise AT has limited improvement on OOD performance. Specifically, we find that AT can only maintain performance at smaller scales of perturbation while Universal AT (UAT) is more robust to larger-scale perturbations. This provides us with clues that adversarial perturbations with universal (low dimensional) structures can enhance the robustness against large data distribution shifts that are common in OOD scenarios. Inspired by this, we propose two AT variants with low-rank structures to train OOD-robust models. Extensive experiments on DomainBed benchmark show that our proposed approaches outperform Empirical Risk Minimization (ERM) and sample-wise AT. Our code is available at

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