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Hidden Layer

What is a Hidden Layer?

In neural networks, a hidden layer is located between the input and output of the algorithm, in which the function applies weights to the inputs and directs them through an activation function as the output. In short, the hidden layers perform nonlinear transformations of the inputs entered into the network. Hidden layers vary depending on the function of the neural network, and similarly, the layers may vary depending on their associated weights.

How does a Hidden Layer work?

Hidden layers, simply put, are layers of mathematical functions each designed to produce an output specific to an intended result. For example, some forms of hidden layers are known as squashing functions. These functions are particularly useful when the intended output of the algorithm is a probability because they take an input and produce an output value between 0 and 1, the range for defining probability.


Hidden layers allow for the function of a neural network to be broken down into specific transformations of the data. Each hidden layer function is specialized to produce a defined output. For example, a hidden layer functions that are used to identify human eyes and ears may be used in conjunction by subsequent layers to identify faces in images. While the functions to identify eyes alone are not enough to independently recognize objects, they can function jointly within a neural network.

Hidden Layers and Machine Learning

Hidden layers are very common in neural networks, however their use and architecture often varies from case to case. As referenced above, hidden layers can be separated by their functional characteristics. For example, in a CNN used for object recognition, a hidden layer that is used to identify wheels cannot solely identify a car, however when placed in conjunction with additional layers used to identify windows, a large metallic body, and headlights, the neural network can then make predictions and identify possible cars within visual data.