Robustifying Token Attention for Vision Transformers

Yong Guo, David Stutz, Bernt Schiele; Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 2023, pp. 17557-17568


Despite the success of vision transformers (ViTs), they still suffer from significant drops in accuracy in the presence of common corruptions, such as noise or blur. Interestingly, we observe that the attention mechanism of ViTs tends to rely on few important tokens, a phenomenon we call token overfocusing. More critically, these tokens are not robust to corruptions, often leading to highly diverging attention patterns. In this paper, we intend to alleviate this overfocusing issue and make attention more stable through two general techniques: First, our Token-aware Average Pooling (TAP) module encourages the local neighborhood of each token to take part in the attention mechanism. Specifically, TAP learns average pooling schemes for each token such that the information of potentially important tokens in the neighborhood can adaptively be taken into account. Second, we force the output tokens to aggregate information from a diverse set of input tokens rather than focusing on just a few by using our Attention Diversification Loss (ADL). We achieve this by penalizing high cosine similarity between the attention vectors of different tokens. In experiments, we apply our methods to a wide range of transformer architectures and improve robustness significantly. For example, we improve corruption robustness on ImageNet-C by 2.4% while improving accuracy by 0.4% based on state-of-the-art robust architecture FAN. Also, when fine-tuning on semantic segmentation tasks, we improve robustness on CityScapes-C by 2.4% and ACDC by 3.0%. Our code is available at

Related Material

[pdf] [supp] [arXiv]
@InProceedings{Guo_2023_ICCV, author = {Guo, Yong and Stutz, David and Schiele, Bernt}, title = {Robustifying Token Attention for Vision Transformers}, booktitle = {Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV)}, month = {October}, year = {2023}, pages = {17557-17568} }