Contrastive Attraction and Contrastive Repulsion for Representation Learning

Transactions on Machine Learning Research

Contrastive learning (CL) methods effectively learn data representations in a self-supervision manner, where the encoder contrasts each positive sample over multiple negative samples via a one-vs-many softmax cross-entropy loss. By leveraging large amounts of unlabeled image data, recent CL methods have achieved promising results when pretrained on large-scale datasets, such as ImageNet. However, most of them consider the augmented views from the same instance are positive pairs, while views from other instances are negative ones. Such binary partition insufficiently considers the relation between samples and tends to yield worse performance when generalized on images in the wild. In this paper, to further improve the performance of CL and enhance its robustness on various datasets, {we propose a doubly CL strategy that separately compares positive and negative samples within their own groups, and then proceeds with a contrast between positive and negative groups}. We realize this strategy with contrastive attraction and contrastive repulsion (CACR), which makes the query not only exert a greater force to attract more distant positive samples but also do so to repel closer negative samples. Theoretical analysis reveals that CACR generalizes CL’s behavior by positive attraction and negative repulsion, and it further considers the intra-contrastive relation within the positive and negative pairs to narrow the gap between the sampled and true distribution, which is important when datasets are less curated. With our extensive experiments, CACR not only demonstrates good performance on CL benchmarks, but also shows better robustness when generalized on imbalanced image datasets.