Harmless label noise and informative soft-labels in supervised classification

Research paper by Daniel Ahfock, Geoffrey J. McLachlan

Indexed on: 08 Apr '21Published on: 06 Apr '21Published in: arXiv - Statistics - Machine Learning


Manual labelling of training examples is common practice in supervised learning. When the labelling task is of non-trivial difficulty, the supplied labels may not be equal to the ground-truth labels, and label noise is introduced into the training dataset. If the manual annotation is carried out by multiple experts, the same training example can be given different class assignments by different experts, which is indicative of label noise. In the framework of model-based classification, a simple, but key observation is that when the manual labels are sampled using the posterior probabilities of class membership, the noisy labels are as valuable as the ground-truth labels in terms of statistical information. A relaxation of this process is a random effects model for imperfect labelling by a group that uses approximate posterior probabilities of class membership. The relative efficiency of logistic regression using the noisy labels compared to logistic regression using the ground-truth labels can then be derived. The main finding is that logistic regression can be robust to label noise when label noise and classification difficulty are positively correlated. In particular, when classification difficulty is the only source of label errors, multiple sets of noisy labels can supply more information for the estimation of a classification rule compared to the single set of ground-truth labels.