Explicit guiding auto-encoders for learning meaningful representation

Yanan Sun, Hua Mao, Yongsheng Sang, Zhang Yi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


The auto-encoder model plays a crucial role in the success of deep learning. During the pre-training phase, auto-encoders learn a representation that helps improve the performance of the entire neural network during the fine-tuning phase of deep learning. However, the learned representation is not always meaningful and the network does not necessarily achieve higher performance with such representation because auto-encoders are trained in an unsupervised manner without knowing the specific task targeted in the fine-tuning phase. In this paper, we propose a novel approach to train auto-encoders by adding an explicit guiding term to the traditional reconstruction cost function that encourages the auto-encoder to learn meaningful features. Particularly, the guiding term is the classification error with respect to the representation learned by the auto-encoder, and a meaningful representation means that a network using the representation as input has a low classification error in a classification task. In our experiments, we show that the additional explicit guiding term helps the auto-encoder understand the prospective target in advance. During learning, it can drive the learning toward a minimum with better generalization with respect to the particular supervised task on the dataset. Over a range of image classification benchmarks, we achieve equal or superior results to baseline auto-encoders with the same configuration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-436
Number of pages8
JournalNeural Computing and Applications
Issue number3
Early online date20 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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