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Abstract:In this work, we formally prove that, under certain conditions, if a neural network is invariant to a finite group then its weights recover the Fourier transform on that group. This provides a mathematical explanation for the emergence of Fourier features -- a ubiquitous phenomenon in both biological and artificial learning systems. The results hold even for non-commutative groups, in which case the Fourier transform encodes all the irreducible unitary group representations. Our findings have consequences for the problem of symmetry discovery. Specifically, we demonstrate that the algebraic structure of an unknown group can be recovered from the weights of a network that is at least approximately invariant within certain bounds. Overall, this work contributes to a foundation for an algebraic learning theory of invariant neural network representations.