Discriminability-Transferability Trade-Off: An Information-Theoretic Perspective

Quan Cui, Bingchen Zhao, Zhao Min Chen, Borui Zhao, Renjie Song*, Boyan Zhou, Jiajun Liang, Osamu Yoshie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This work simultaneously considers the discriminability and transferability properties of deep representations in the typical supervised learning task, i.e., image classification. By a comprehensive temporal analysis, we observe a trade-off between these two properties. The discriminability keeps increasing with the training progressing while the transferability intensely diminishes in the later training period. From the perspective of information-bottleneck theory, we reveal that the incompatibility between discriminability and transferability is attributed to the over-compression of input information. More importantly, we investigate why and how the InfoNCE loss can alleviate the over-compression, and further present a learning framework, named contrastive temporal coding (CTC), to counteract the over-compression and alleviate the incompatibility. Extensive experiments validate that CTC successfully mitigates the incompatibility, yielding discriminative and transferable representations. Noticeable improvements are achieved on the image classification task and challenging transfer learning tasks. We hope that this work will raise the significance of the transferability property in the conventional supervised learning setting.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComputer Vision – ECCV 2022 - 17th European Conference, 2022, Proceedings
EditorsShai Avidan, Gabriel Brostow, Moustapha Cissé, Giovanni Maria Farinella, Tal Hassner
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9783031198083
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Event17th European Conference on Computer Vision, ECCV 2022 - Tel Aviv, Israel
Duration: 2022 Oct 232022 Oct 27

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume13686 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference17th European Conference on Computer Vision, ECCV 2022
CityTel Aviv


  • Contrastive learning
  • Discriminability
  • Information-bottleneck theory
  • Representation learning
  • Transferability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)


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