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Self-training Converts Weak Learners to Strong Learners in Mixture Models

Spencer Frei · Difan Zou · Zixiang Chen · Quanquan Gu

Abstract: We consider a binary classification problem when the data comes from a mixture of two rotationally symmetric distributions satisfying concentration and anti-concentration properties enjoyed by log-concave distributions among others. We show that there exists a universal constant $C_{\mathrm{err}}>0$ such that if a pseudolabeler $\beta_{\mathrm{pl}}$ can achieve classification error at most $C_{\mathrm{err}}$, then for any $\varepsilon>0$, an iterative self-training algorithm initialized at $\beta_0 := \beta_{\mathrm{pl}}$ using pseudolabels $\hat y = \mathrm{sgn}(\langle \beta_t, \xb\rangle)$ and using at most $\tilde O(d/\varepsilon^2)$ unlabeled examples suffices to learn the Bayes-optimal classifier up to $\varepsilon$ error, where $d$ is the ambient dimension. That is, self-training converts weak learners to strong learners using only unlabeled examples. We additionally show that by running gradient descent on the logistic loss one can obtain a pseudolabeler $\beta_{\mathrm{pl}}$ with classification error $C_{\mathrm{err}}$ using only $O(d)$ labeled examples (i.e., independent of $\varepsilon$). Together our results imply that mixture models can be learned to within $\varepsilon$ of the Bayes-optimal accuracy using at most $O(d)$ labeled examples and $\tilde O(d/\varepsilon^2)$ unlabeled examples by way of a semi-supervised self-training algorithm.

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