Exploiting Inference for Approximate Parameter Learning in Discriminative Fields: An Empirical Study

Estimation of parameters of random field models from labeled training data is crucial for their good performance in many image analysis applications. In this paper, we present an approach for ap- proximate maximum likelihood parameter learning in discriminative field models, which is based on approximating true expectations with simple piecewise constant functions constructed using inference techniques. Gradient ascent with these updates exhibits compelling limit cycle behavior which is tied closely to the number of errors made during inference. The performance of various approximations was evaluated with different inference techniques showing that the learned parameters lead to good classification performance so long as the method used for approximating the gradient is consistent with the inference mechanism. The proposed approach is general enough to be used for the training of, e.g., smoothing parameters of conventional Markov Random Fields (MRFs).

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