# Why must a nonlinear activation function be used in a backpropagation neural network?

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I read about the neural network and understood the general principle of single layer neural network. Additional layer needs I understood but why do we use a nonlinear activation function?

by (10.9k points)

The purpose of the activation function is to introduce non-linearity into the output of a neuron.

A neural network is essentially just a linear regression model without an activation function. The activation function does the non-linear transformation to the input making it capable to learn and perform more complex tasks.

Alternatively, it can be explained like: without a non-linear function doesn’t matter how many hidden layers we attach in the neutral net all will behave in the same way.Neuron cannot learn with just a linear function attached to it, it requires a non-linear activation function to learn as per the difference w.r.t error.

Ex-

>>> input_vector = NP.random.rand(10)

>>> input_vector

array([ 0.61,  0.82,  0.95,  0.  ,  0.79,  0.55,  0.35,  0.27,  0.49,  0.15])

>>> output_vector = NP.tanh(input_vector)

>>> output_vector

array([ 0.55,  0.64,  0.37,  0.  ,  0.95,  0.73,  0.42,  0.67,  0.33,  0.88])

Go through the insighful ai tutorial for more knowledge on this segment.

by (90.8k points)

The non-linear functions do the mappings between the inputs and response variables. Their main purpose is to convert an input signal of a node in an ANN(Artificial Neural Network) to an output signal. That output signal is now used as an input in the next layer in the stack. Without a non-linear activation function in your NN(neural network), no matter how many layers it had, it will behave just like a single-layer perceptron, because summing these layers would give you just another linear function which is not the same as output that renders to a straight line-the word for this is affine.