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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Developmentally-Inspired Examination of Shape versus Texture Bias in Machines


Children learn to extend novel category labels to objects with the same shape, a phenomenon known as the shape bias. Inspired by these findings, Geirhos et al. (2019) examined whether deep neural networks (DNNs) show a shape or texture bias by constructing images with conflicting shape and texture cues. They found that DNNs strongly preferred to classify familiar objects based on texture as opposed to shape. However, there are a number of differences between how the networks were tested in this study versus how children are typically tested. In this work, we re-examine the inductive biases of neural networks by adapting the stimuli and procedure from Geirhos et al. (2019) to more closely follow the developmental paradigm and test on a range of neural networks. We find that DNNs exhibit a preference for shape rather than texture when tested under conditions that more closely replicate the developmental procedure.

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