Understanding Incremental Learning of Gradient Descent -- A Fine-grained Analysis of Matrix Sensing



It is believed that Gradient Descent (GD) induces an implicit bias towards good generalization in training machine learning models. This paper provides a fine-grained analysis of the dynamics of GD for the matrix sensing problem, whose goal is to recover a low-rank ground-truth matrix from near-isotropic linear measurements. It is shown that GD with small initialization behaves similarly to the greedy low-rank learning heuristics (Li et al., 2020) and follows an incremental learning procedure (Gissin et al., 2019) – GD sequentially learns solutions with increasing ranks until it recovers the ground truth matrix. Compared to existing works which only analyze the first learning phase for rank-1 solutions, our result provides characterizations for the whole learning process. Moreover, besides the over-parameterized regime that many prior works focused on, our analysis of the incremental learning procedure also applies to the under-parameterized regime. Finally, we conduct numerical experiments to confirm our theoretical findings.

In The Fortieth International Conference on Machine Learning