Balance, Imbalance, and Rebalance: Understanding Robust Overfitting from a Minimax Game Perspective

Yifei Wang · Liangchen Li · Jiansheng Yang · Zhouchen Lin · Yisen Wang

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1625
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Thu 14 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


Adversarial Training (AT) has become arguably the state-of-the-art algorithm for extracting robust features. However, researchers recently notice that AT suffers from severe robust overfitting problems, particularly after learning rate (LR) decay. In this paper, we explain this phenomenon by viewing adversarial training as a dynamic minimax game between the model trainer and the attacker. Specifically, we analyze how LR decay breaks the balance between the minimax game by empowering the trainer with a stronger memorization ability, and show such imbalance induces robust overfitting as a result of memorizing non-robust features. We validate this understanding with extensive experiments, and provide a holistic view of robust overfitting from the dynamics of both the two game players. This understanding further inspires us to alleviate robust overfitting by rebalancing the two players by either regularizing the trainer's capacity or improving the attack strength. Experiments show that the proposed ReBalanced Adversarial Training (ReBAT) can attain good robustness and does not suffer from robust overfitting even after very long training. Code is available at

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