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regularization is a computationally cheap way to regularize a deep neural network.

Dropout by probabilistically removing, or “dropping out,” inputs to a layer, which may be input variables in the data sample or activations from a previous layer. It has the effect of simulating a large number of networks with very different network structure and, in turn, making nodes in the network generally more robust to the inputs.

In this tutorial, you will discover the API for adding dropout regularization to deep learning neural network models.

After completing this tutorial, you will know:

  • How to create a dropout layer using the Keras API.
  • How to add dropout regularization to MLP, CNN, and RNN layers using the Keras API.
  • How to reduce overfitting by adding a dropout regularization to an existing model.

Let’s get started.

How to Reduce Overfitting With Dropout Regularization in Keras  - How to Reduce Overfitting With Dropout Regularization in Keras - How to Reduce Overfitting With Dropout Regularization in Keras

How to Reduce Overfitting With Dropout Regularization in Keras
Photo by PROJorge Láscar, some rights reserved.

Tutorial Overview

This tutorial is divided into three parts; they are:

  1. Dropout Regularization in Keras
  2. Dropout Regularization on Layers
  3. Dropout Regularization Case Study

Dropout Regularization in Keras

Keras supports dropout regularization.

The simplest form of dropout in Keras is provided by a Dropout core layer.

When created, the dropout rate can be specified to the layer as the probability of setting each input to the layer to zero. This is different from the definition of dropout rate from the papers, in which the rate refers to the probability of retaining an input.

Therefore, when a dropout rate of 0.8 is suggested in a paper (retain 80%), this will, in fact, will be a dropout rate of 0.2 (set 20% of inputs to zero).

Below is an example of creating a dropout layer with a 50% chance of setting inputs to zero.




Dropout Regularization on Layers

The Dropout layer is added to a model between existing layers and applies to outputs of the prior layer that are fed to the subsequent layer.

For example, given two dense layers:



We can insert a dropout layer between them, in which case the outputs or activations of the first layer have dropout applied to them, which are then taken as input to the next layer.

It is this second layer now which has dropout applied.



Dropout can also be applied to the visible layer, e.g. the inputs to the network.

This requires that you define the network with the Dropout layer as the first layer and add the input_shape argument to the layer to specify the expected shape of the input samples.



Let’s take a look at how dropout regularization can be used with some common network types.

MLP Dropout Regularization

The example below adds dropout between two dense fully connected layers.



CNN Dropout Regularization

Dropout can be used after convolutional layers (e.g. Conv2D) and after pooling layers (e.g. MaxPooling2D).

Often, dropout is only used after the pooling layers, but this is just a rough heuristic.



In this case, dropout is applied to each element or cell within the feature maps.

An alternative way to use dropout with convolutional neural networks is to dropout entire feature maps from the convolutional layer which are then not used during pooling. This is called spatial dropout (or “SpatialDropout“).

Instead we formulate a new dropout method which we call SpatialDropout. For a given convolution feature tensor […] [we] extend the dropout value across the entire feature map.

Efficient Object Localization Using Convolutional Networks, 2015.

Spatial Dropout is provided in Keras via the SpatialDropout2D layer (as well as 1D and 3D versions).



RNN Dropout Regularization

The example below adds dropout between two layers: an LSTM recurrent layer and a dense fully connected layers.



This example applies dropout to, in this case, 32 outputs from the LSTM layer provided as input to the Dense layer.

Alternately, the inputs to the LSTM may be subjected to dropout. In this case, a different dropout mask is applied to each step within each sample presented to the LSTM.



There is an alternative way to use dropout with recurrent layers like the LSTM. The same dropout mask may be used by the LSTM for all inputs within a sample. The same approach may be used for recurrent input connections across the time steps of the sample. This approach to dropout with recurrent models is called a Variational RNN.

The proposed technique (Variational RNN […]) uses the same dropout mask at each time step, including the recurrent layers. […] Implementing our approximate inference is identical to implementing dropout in RNNs with the same network units dropped at each time step, randomly dropping inputs, outputs, and recurrent connections. This is in contrast to existing techniques, where different network units would be dropped at different time steps, and no dropout would be applied to the recurrent connections

A Theoretically Grounded Application of Dropout in Recurrent Neural Networks, 2016.

Keras supports Variational RNNs (i.e. consistent dropout across the time steps of a sample for inputs and recurrent inputs) via two arguments on the recurrent layers, namely “dropout” for inputs and “recurrent_dropout” for recurrent inputs.



Dropout Regularization Case Study

In this section, we will demonstrate how to use dropout regularization to reduce overfitting of an MLP on a simple binary classification problem.

This example provides a template for applying dropout regularization to your own neural network for classification and regression problems.

Binary Classification Problem

We will use a standard binary classification problem that defines two two-dimensional concentric circles of observations, one circle for each class.

Each observation has two input variables with the same scale and a class output value of either 0 or 1. This dataset is called the “circles” dataset because of the shape of the observations in each class when plotted.

We can use the make_circles() function to generate observations from this problem. We will add noise to the data and seed the random number generator so that the same samples are generated each time the code is run.



We can plot the dataset where the two variables are taken as x and y coordinates on a graph and the class value is taken as the color of the observation.

The complete example of generating the dataset and plotting it is listed below.



Running the example creates a scatter plot showing the concentric circles shape of the observations in each class. We can see the noise in the dispersal of the points making the circles less obvious.

Scatter Plot of Circles Dataset with Color Showing the Class Value of Each Sample  - Scatter Plot of Circles Dataset with Color Showing the Class Value of Each Sample - How to Reduce Overfitting With Dropout Regularization in Keras

Scatter Plot of Circles Dataset with Color Showing the Class Value of Each Sample

This is a good test problem because the classes cannot be separated by a line, e.g. are not linearly separable, requiring a nonlinear method such as a neural network to address.

We have only generated 100 samples, which is small for a neural network, providing the opportunity to overfit the training dataset and have higher error on the test dataset: a good case for using regularization. Further, the samples have noise, giving the model an opportunity to learn aspects of the samples that don’t generalize.

Overfit Multilayer Perceptron

We can develop an MLP model to address this binary classification problem.

The model will have one hidden layer with more nodes than may be required to solve this problem, providing an opportunity to overfit. We will also train the model for longer than is required to ensure the model overfits.

Before we define the model, we will split the dataset into train and test sets, using 30 examples to train the model and 70 to evaluate the fit model’s performance.



Next, we can define the model.

The hidden layer uses 500 nodes in the hidden layer and the rectified linear activation function. A sigmoid activation function is used in the output layer in order to predict class values of 0 or 1.

The model is optimized using the binary cross entropy loss function, suitable for binary classification problems and the efficient Adam version of gradient descent.



The defined model is then fit on the training data for 4,000 epochs and the default batch size of 32.

We will also use the test dataset as a validation dataset.



We can evaluate the performance of the model on the test dataset and report the result.



Finally, we will plot the performance of the model on both the train and test set each epoch.

If the model does indeed overfit the training dataset, we would expect the line plot of accuracy on the training set to continue to increase and the test set to rise and then fall again as the model learns statistical noise in the training dataset.



We can tie all of these pieces together; the complete example is listed below.