When are Lemons Purple? The Concept Association Bias of CLIP

Published on Dec 22, 2022


Large-scale vision-language models such as CLIP have shown impressive performance on zero-shot image classification and image-to-text retrieval. However, such zero-shot performance of CLIP-based models does not realize in tasks that require a finer-grained correspondence between vision and language, such as Visual Question Answering (VQA). We investigate why this is the case, and report an interesting phenomenon of CLIP, which we call the Concept Association Bias (CAB), as a potential cause of the difficulty of applying CLIP to VQA and similar tasks. CAB is especially apparent when two concepts are present in the given image while a text prompt only contains a single concept. In such a case, we find that CLIP tends to treat input as a bag of concepts and attempts to fill in the other missing concept crossmodally, leading to an unexpected zero-shot prediction. For example, when asked for the color of a lemon in an image, CLIP predicts ``purple'' if the image contains a lemon and an eggplant. We demonstrate the Concept Association Bias of CLIP by showing that CLIP's zero-shot classification performance greatly suffers when there is a strong concept association between an object (e.g. lemon) and an attribute (e.g. its color). On the other hand, when the association between object and attribute is weak, we do not see this phenomenon. Furthermore, we show that CAB is significantly mitigated when we enable CLIP to learn deeper structure across image and text embeddings by adding an additional Transformer on top of CLIP and fine-tuning it on VQA. We find that across such fine-tuned variants of CLIP, the strength of CAB in a model predicts how well it performs on VQA.


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