Prefix Conditioning Unifies Language and Label Supervision

Kuniaki Saito
Kihyuk Sohn
Xiang Zhang
Chun-Liang Li
Kate Saenko
Google Scholar


Vision-language contrastive learning suggests a new learning paradigm by leveraging a large amount of image-caption-pair data. The caption supervision excels at providing wide coverage in vocabulary that enables strong zero-shot image recognition performance. On the other hand, label supervision offers to learn more targeted visual representations that are label-oriented and can cover rare categories. To gain the complementary advantages of both kinds of supervision for contrastive image-caption pre-training, recent works have proposed to convert class labels into a sentence with pre-defined templates called prompts. However, a naive unification of the real caption and the prompt sentences could lead to a complication in learning, as the distribution shift in text may not be handled properly in the language encoder. In this work, we propose a simple yet effective approach to unify these two types of supervision using prefix tokens that inform a language encoder of the type of the input sentence (e.g., caption or prompt) at training time. Our method is generic and can be easily integrated into existing VL pre-training objectives such as CLIP or UniCL. In experiments, we show that this simple technique dramatically improves the performance in zero-shot image recognition accuracy of the pre-trained model.