When humans classify images, we tend to use high-level information about the shape and position of the object. However, when convolutional neural networks classify images,, they tend to use low-level, or textural, information more than high-level shape information. This paper tries to understand what factors lead to higher shape bias or texture bias. To investigate this, the authors look at three datasets with disagreeing shape and texture labels. The first is GST, or Geirhos Style Transfer. In this dataset, style transfer is used to render the content of one class in the style of another (for example, a cat shape in the texture of an elephant). In the Navon dataset, a large-scale letter is rendered by tiling smaller letters. And, in the ImageNet-C dataset, a given class is rendered with a particular kind of distortion; here the distortion is considered to be the "texture label". In the rest of the paper, "shape bias" refers to the extent to which a model trained on normal images will predict the shape label rather than the texture label associated with a GST image. The other datasets are used in experiments where a model explicitly tries to learn either shape or texture. https://i.imgur.com/aw1MThL.png To start off, the authors try to understand whether CNNs are inherently more capable of learning texture information rather than shape information. To do this, they train models on either the shape or the textural label on each of the three aforementioned datasets. On GST and Navon, shape labels can be learned faster and more efficiently than texture ones. On ImageNet-C (i.e. distorted ImageNet), it seems to be easier to learn texture than texture, but recall here that texture corresponds to the type of noise, and I imagine that the cardinality of noise types is far smaller than that of ImageNet images, so I'm not sure how informative this comparison is. Overall, this experiment suggests that CNNs are able to learn from shape alone without low-level texture as a clue, in cases where the two sources of information disagree The paper moves on to try to understand what factors about a normal ImageNet model give it higher or lower shape bias - that is, a higher or lower likelihood of classifying a GST image according to its shape rather than texture. Predictably, data augmentations have an effect here. When data is augmented with aggressive random cropping, this increases texture bias relative to shape bias, presumably because when large chunks of an object are cropped away, its overall shape becomes a less useful feature. Center cropping is better for shape bias, probably because objects are likely to be at the center of the image, so center cropping has less of a chance of distorting them. On the other hand, more "naturalistic" augmentations like adding Gaussian noise or distorting colors lead to a higher shape bias in the resulting networks, up to 60% with all the modifications. However, the authors also find that pushing the shape bias up has the result of dropping final test accuracy. https://i.imgur.com/Lb6RMJy.png Interestingly, while the techniques that increase shape bias seem to also harm performance, the authors also find that higher-performing models tend to have higher shape bias (though with texture bias still outweighing shape) suggesting that stronger models learn how to use shape more effectively, but also that handicapping models' ability to use texture in order to incentivize them to use shape tends to hurt performance overall. Overall, my take from this paper is that texture-level data is actually statistically informative and useful for classification - even in terms of generalization - even if is too high-resolution to be useful as a visual feature for humans. CNNs don't seem inherently incapable of learning from shape, but removing their ability to rely on texture seems to lead to a notable drop in accuracy, suggesting there was real signal there that we're losing out on.