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Workshop: 4th Workshop on Self-Supervised Learning: Theory and Practice

Exploring Target Representations for Masked Autoencoders

xingbin liu · Jinghao Zhou · Tao Kong


Masked autoencoders have become popular training paradigms for self-supervised visual representation learning. These models randomly mask a portion of the input and reconstruct the masked portion according to assigned target representations. In this paper, we show that a careful choice of the target representation is unnecessary for learning good visual representation since different targets tend to derive similarly behaved models. Driven by this observation, we propose a multi-stage masked distillation pipeline and use a randomly initialized model as the teacher, enabling us to effectively train high-capacity models without any effort to carefully design the target representation. On various downstream tasks, the proposed method to perform masked knowledge distillation with bootstrapped teachers (dbot) outperforms previous self-supervised methods by nontrivial margins. We hope our findings, as well as the proposed method, could motivate people to rethink the roles of target representations in pre-training masked autoencoders.

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