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  1. When transferring a pretrained model to a downstream task, two popular methods are full fine-tuning (updating all the model parameters) and linear probing (updating only the last linear layer—the “head”). It is well known that fine-tuning leads to better accuracy in-distribution (ID). However, in this paper, we find that fine-tuning can achieve worse accuracy than linear probing out-of-distribution (OOD) when the pretrained features are good and the distribution shift is large. On 10 distribution shift datasets (Breeds-Living17, Breeds-Entity30, DomainNet, CIFAR → STL, CIFAR10.1, FMoW, ImageNetV2, ImageNet-R, ImageNet-A, ImageNet-Sketch), fine-tuning obtains on average 2% higher accuracy ID but 7% lower accuracy OOD than linear probing. We show theoretically that this tradeoff between ID and OOD accuracy arises even in a simple setting: fine-tuning overparameterized two-layer linear networks. We prove that the OOD error of fine-tuning is high when we initialize with a fixed or random head—this is because while fine-tuning learns the head, the lower layers of the neural network change simultaneously and distort the pretrained features. Our analysis suggests that the easy two-step strategy of linear probing then full fine-tuning (LP-FT), sometimes used as a fine-tuning heuristic, combines the benefits of both fine-tuning and linear probing. Empirically, LP-FT outperforms both fine-tuning and linear probing on the above datasets (1% better ID, 10% better OOD than full fine-tuning). 
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  2. When transferring a pretrained model to a downstream task, two popular methods are full fine-tuning (updating all the model parameters) and linear probing (updating only the last linear layer -- the "head"). It is well known that fine-tuning leads to better accuracy in-distribution (ID). However, in this paper, we find that fine-tuning can achieve worse accuracy than linear probing out-of-distribution (OOD) when the pretrained features are good and the distribution shift is large. On 10 distribution shift datasets (Breeds-Living17, Breeds-Entity30, DomainNet, CIFAR → STL, CIFAR10.1, FMoW, ImageNetV2, ImageNet-R, ImageNet-A, ImageNet-Sketch), fine-tuning obtains on average 2% higher accuracy ID but 7% lower accuracy OOD than linear probing. We show theoretically that this tradeoff between ID and OOD accuracy arises even in a simple setting: fine-tuning overparameterized two-layer linear networks. We prove that the OOD error of fine-tuning is high when we initialize with a fixed or random head -- this is because while fine-tuning learns the head, the lower layers of the neural network change simultaneously and distort the pretrained features. Our analysis suggests that the easy two-step strategy of linear probing then full fine-tuning (LP-FT), sometimes used as a fine-tuning heuristic, combines the benefits of both fine-tuning and linear probing. Empirically, LP-FT outperforms both fine-tuning and linear probing on the above datasets (1% better ID, 10% better OOD than full fine-tuning). 
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  3. Domain generalization aims at performing well on unseen test environments with data from a limited number of training environments. Despite a proliferation of proposed algorithms for this task, assessing their performance both theoretically and empirically is still very challenging. Distributional matching algorithms such as (Conditional) Domain Adversarial Networks [12, 28] are popular and enjoy empirical success, but they lack formal guarantees. Other approaches such as Invariant Risk Minimization (IRM) require a prohibitively large number of training environments—linear in the dimension of the spurious feature space ds—even on simple data models like the one proposed by Rosenfeld et al. [37]. Under a variant of this model, we show that ERM and IRM can fail to fnd the optimal invariant predictor with o(ds) environments. We then present an iterative feature matching algorithm that is guaranteed with high probability to find the optimal invariant predictor after seeing only O(log ds) environments. Our results provide the first theoretical justification for distribution-matching algorithms widely used in practice under a concrete nontrivial data model. 
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  5. Over-parametrization is an important technique in training neural networks. In both theory and practice, training a larger network allows the optimization algorithm to avoid bad local optimal solutions. In this paper we study a closely related tensor decomposition problem: given an l-th order tensor in (Rd)⊗l of rank r (where r≪d), can variants of gradient descent find a rank m decomposition where m>r? We show that in a lazy training regime (similar to the NTK regime for neural networks) one needs at least m=Ω(dl−1), while a variant of gradient descent can find an approximate tensor when m=O∗(r2.5llogd). Our results show that gradient descent on over-parametrized objective could go beyond the lazy training regime and utilize certain low-rank structure in the data. 
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