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Workshop: Synthetic Data Generation with Generative AI

Harnessing Synthetic Datasets: The Role of Shape Bias in Deep Neural Network Generalization

Elior Benarous · Sotiris Anagnostidis · Luca Biggio · Thomas Hofmann

Keywords: [ Shape Bias ] [ Synthetic Data ] [ generalization ] [ Dataset Diversity ] [ Deep Learning ]


Recent advancements in deep learning have been primarily driven by the use of large models trained on increasingly vast datasets. While neural scaling laws have emerged to predict network performance given a specific level of computational resources, the growing demand for expansive datasets raises concerns. To address this, a new research direction has emerged, focusing on the creation of synthetic data as a substitute. In this study, we investigate how neural networks exhibit shape bias during training on synthetic datasets, serving as an indicator of the synthetic data quality. Specifically, our findings indicate three key points: (1) Shape bias varies across network architectures and types of supervision, casting doubt on its reliability as a predictor for generalization and its ability to explain differences in model recognition compared to human capabilities. (2) Relying solely on shape bias to estimate generalization is unreliable, as it is entangled with diversity and naturalism. (3) We propose a novel interpretation of shape bias as a tool for estimating the diversity of samples within a dataset. Our research aims to clarify the implications of using synthetic data and its associated shape bias in deep learning, addressing concerns regarding generalization and dataset quality.

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