Is it possible to revert the softmax function in order to obtain the original values $x_i$?

$$S_i=\frac{e^{x_i}}{\sum e^{x_i}} $$

In case of 3 input variables this problem boils down to finding $a$, $b$, $c$ given $x$, $y$ and $z$:

\begin{cases} \frac{a}{a+b+c} &= x \\ \frac{b}{a+b+c} &= y \\ \frac{c}{a+b+c} &= z \end{cases}

Is this problem solvable?


2 Answers 2


Note that in your three equations you must have $x+y+z=1$. The general solution to your three equations are $a=kx$, $b=ky$, and $c=kz$ where $k$ is any scalar.

So if you want to recover $x_i$ from $S_i$, you would note $\sum_i S_i = 1$ which gives the solution $x_i = \log (S_i) + c$ for all $i$, for some constant $c$.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So it’s solvable up to a constant. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – jojek
    May 18, 2018 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ Which c constant should I use? There is any way of calculating it? $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2019 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @JoelCarneiro Any $c$ will work; the solution is not unique. $\endgroup$
    – angryavian
    Feb 7, 2019 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ Any $c$ will work, one choice is if you augment the $x_i$ vector like $(0, x_1,...,x_n)$ then this will induce a particular $c$, note the corresponding log-sum-exp -- the gradient of which is the softmax -- would also be convex (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LogSumExp). $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2019 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ In the case anybody like me spend too much time figuring out $c$: If you know your 3 input variables have to sum to 1 then your $c = (1 - log(x \cdot y \cdot z))/3)$. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2020 at 13:04

A similar question was asked in a post of reddit. The answer below is adapted from that post:

$S_{i}$ = $\exp(x_{i})/(\sum_{i} \exp(x_{i}))$

Taking ln on both sides:

$\ln(S_{i}) = x_{i} - \ln(\sum_{i} \exp(x_{i}))$

Changing sides:

$x_{i} = \ln(S_{i}) + \ln(\sum_{i} \exp(x_{i}))$

The second term of the right hand side is constant for a particular $i$ and can be written as $C_{i}$. Therefore, we can write:

$x_{i} = \ln(S_{i}) + C$

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ better use j in the summation $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2021 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ Not quite right. There is no subscript i on the C because C is a sum over all is. Thanks for laying this out! $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2021 at 13:42

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