- TL;DR: Smaller batch sizes can outperform very large batches on the test set under constant step budgets and with properly tuned learning rate schedules.
- Abstract: This paper makes two contributions towards understanding how the hyperparameters of stochastic gradient descent affect the final training loss and test accuracy of neural networks. First, we argue that stochastic gradient descent exhibits two regimes with different behaviours; a noise dominated regime which typically arises for small or moderate batch sizes, and a curvature dominated regime which typically arises when the batch size is large. In the noise dominated regime, the optimal learning rate increases as the batch size rises, and the training loss and test accuracy are independent of batch size under a constant epoch budget. In the curvature dominated regime, the optimal learning rate is independent of batch size, and the training loss and test accuracy degrade as the batch size rises. We support these claims with experiments on a range of architectures including ResNets, LSTMs and autoencoders. We always perform a grid search over learning rates at all batch sizes. Second, we demonstrate that small or moderately large batch sizes continue to outperform very large batches on the test set, even when both models are trained for the same number of steps and reach similar training losses. Furthermore, when training Wide-ResNets on CIFAR-10 with a constant batch size of 64, the optimal learning rate to maximize the test accuracy only decays by a factor of 2 when the epoch budget is increased by a factor of 128, while the optimal learning rate to minimize the training loss decays by a factor of 16. These results confirm that the noise in stochastic gradients can introduce beneficial implicit regularization.
- Keywords: SGD, momentum, batch size, learning rate, noise, temperature, implicit regularization, optimization, generalization
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