Alessandra Cervone


2022

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Logical Reasoning for Task Oriented Dialogue Systems
Sajjad Beygi | Maryam Fazel-Zarandi | Alessandra Cervone | Prakash Krishnan | Siddhartha Jonnalagadda
Proceedings of The Fifth Workshop on e-Commerce and NLP (ECNLP 5)

In recent years, large pretrained models have been used in dialogue systems to improve successful task completion rates. However, lack of reasoning capabilities of dialogue platforms make it difficult to provide relevant and fluent responses, unless the designers of a conversational experience spend a considerable amount of time implementing these capabilities in external rule based modules. In this work, we propose a novel method to fine-tune pretrained transformer models such as Roberta and T5, to reason over a set of facts in a given dialogue context.Our method includes a synthetic data generation mechanism which helps the model learn logical relations, such as comparison between list of numerical values, inverse relations (and negation), inclusion and exclusion for categorical attributes, and application of a combination of attributes over both numerical and categorical values, and spoken form for numerical values, without need for additional training data. We show that the transformer based model can perform logical reasoning to answer questions when the dialogue context contains all the required information, otherwise it is able to extract appropriate constraints to pass to downstream components (e.g. a knowledge base) when partial information is available. We observe that transformer based models such as UnifiedQA-T5 can be fine-tuned to perform logical reasoning (such as numerical and categorical attributes’ comparison) over attributes seen at training time (e.g., accuracy of 90%+ for comparison of smaller than kmax=5 values over heldout test dataset).

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Towards Large-Scale Interpretable Knowledge Graph Reasoning for Dialogue Systems
Yi-Lin Tuan | Sajjad Beygi | Maryam Fazel-Zarandi | Qiaozi Gao | Alessandra Cervone | William Yang Wang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Users interacting with voice assistants today need to phrase their requests in a very specific manner to elicit an appropriate response. This limits the user experience, and is partly due to the lack of reasoning capabilities of dialogue platforms and the hand-crafted rules that require extensive labor. One possible solution to improve user experience and relieve the manual efforts of designers is to build an end-to-end dialogue system that can do reasoning itself while perceiving user’s utterances. In this work, we propose a novel method to incorporate the knowledge reasoning capability into dialog systems in a more scalable and generalizable manner. Our proposed method allows a single transformer model to directly walk on a large-scale knowledge graph to generate responses. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work to have transformer models generate responses by reasoning over differentiable knowledge graphs. We investigate the reasoning abilities of the proposed method on both task-oriented and domain-specific chit-chat dialogues. Empirical results show that this method can effectively and efficiently incorporate a knowledge graph into a dialogue system with fully-interpretable reasoning paths.

2021

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Would you like to tell me more? Generating a corpus of psychotherapy dialogues
Seyed Mahed Mousavi | Alessandra Cervone | Morena Danieli | Giuseppe Riccardi
Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Natural Language Processing for Medical Conversations

The acquisition of a dialogue corpus is a key step in the process of training a dialogue model. In this context, corpora acquisitions have been designed either for open-domain information retrieval or slot-filling (e.g. restaurant booking) tasks. However, there has been scarce research in the problem of collecting personal conversations with users over a long period of time. In this paper we focus on the types of dialogues that are required for mental health applications. One of these types is the follow-up dialogue that a psychotherapist would initiate in reviewing the progress of a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) intervention. The elicitation of the dialogues is achieved through textual stimuli presented to dialogue writers. We propose an automatic algorithm that generates textual stimuli from personal narratives collected during psychotherapy interventions. The automatically generated stimuli are presented as a seed to dialogue writers following principled guidelines. We analyze the linguistic quality of the collected corpus and compare the performances of psychotherapists and non-expert dialogue writers. Moreover, we report the human evaluation of a corpus-based response-selection model.

2020

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Is this Dialogue Coherent? Learning from Dialogue Acts and Entities
Alessandra Cervone | Giuseppe Riccardi
Proceedings of the 21th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

In this work, we investigate the human perception of coherence in open-domain dialogues. In particular, we address the problem of annotating and modeling the coherence of next-turn candidates while considering the entire history of the dialogue. First, we create the Switchboard Coherence (SWBD-Coh) corpus, a dataset of human-human spoken dialogues annotated with turn coherence ratings, where next-turn candidate utterances ratings are provided considering the full dialogue context. Our statistical analysis of the corpus indicates how turn coherence perception is affected by patterns of distribution of entities previously introduced and the Dialogue Acts used. Second, we experiment with different architectures to model entities, Dialogue Acts and their combination and evaluate their performance in predicting human coherence ratings on SWBD-Coh. We find that models combining both DA and entity information yield the best performances both for response selection and turn coherence rating.

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Annotation of Emotion Carriers in Personal Narratives
Aniruddha Tammewar | Alessandra Cervone | Eva-Maria Messner | Giuseppe Riccardi
Proceedings of the 12th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

We are interested in the problem of understanding personal narratives (PN) - spoken or written - recollections of facts, events, and thoughts. For PNs, we define emotion carriers as the speech or text segments that best explain the emotional state of the narrator. Such segments may span from single to multiple words, containing for example verb or noun phrases. Advanced automatic understanding of PNs requires not only the prediction of the narrator’s emotional state but also to identify which events (e.g. the loss of a relative or the visit of grandpa) or people (e.g. the old group of high school mates) carry the emotion manifested during the personal recollection. This work proposes and evaluates an annotation model for identifying emotion carriers in spoken personal narratives. Compared to other text genres such as news and microblogs, spoken PNs are particularly challenging because a narrative is usually unstructured, involving multiple sub-events and characters as well as thoughts and associated emotions perceived by the narrator. In this work, we experiment with annotating emotion carriers in speech transcriptions from the Ulm State-of-Mind in Speech (USoMS) corpus, a dataset of PNs in German. We believe this resource could be used for experiments in the automatic extraction of emotion carriers from PN, a task that could provide further advancements in narrative understanding.

2019

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Affective Behaviour Analysis of On-line User Interactions: Are On-line Support Groups More Therapeutic than Twitter?
Giuliano Tortoreto | Evgeny Stepanov | Alessandra Cervone | Mateusz Dubiel | Giuseppe Riccardi
Proceedings of the Fourth Social Media Mining for Health Applications (#SMM4H) Workshop & Shared Task

The increase in the prevalence of mental health problems has coincided with a growing popularity of health related social networking sites. Regardless of their therapeutic potential, on-line support groups (OSGs) can also have negative effects on patients. In this work we propose a novel methodology to automatically verify the presence of therapeutic factors in social networking websites by using Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques. The methodology is evaluated on on-line asynchronous multi-party conversations collected from an OSG and Twitter. The results of the analysis indicate that therapeutic factors occur more frequently in OSG conversations than in Twitter conversations. Moreover, the analysis of OSG conversations reveals that the users of that platform are supportive, and interactions are likely to lead to the improvement of their emotional state. We believe that our method provides a stepping stone towards automatic analysis of emotional states of users of online platforms. Possible applications of the method include provision of guidelines that highlight potential implications of using such platforms on users’ mental health, and/or support in the analysis of their impact on specific individuals.

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Towards Coherent and Engaging Spoken Dialog Response Generation Using Automatic Conversation Evaluators
Sanghyun Yi | Rahul Goel | Chandra Khatri | Alessandra Cervone | Tagyoung Chung | Behnam Hedayatnia | Anu Venkatesh | Raefer Gabriel | Dilek Hakkani-Tur
Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

Encoder-decoder based neural architectures serve as the basis of state-of-the-art approaches in end-to-end open domain dialog systems. Since most of such systems are trained with a maximum likelihood (MLE) objective they suffer from issues such as lack of generalizability and the generic response problem, i.e., a system response that can be an answer to a large number of user utterances, e.g., “Maybe, I don’t know.” Having explicit feedback on the relevance and interestingness of a system response at each turn can be a useful signal for mitigating such issues and improving system quality by selecting responses from different approaches. Towards this goal, we present a system that evaluates chatbot responses at each dialog turn for coherence and engagement. Our system provides explicit turn-level dialog quality feedback, which we show to be highly correlated with human evaluation. To show that incorporating this feedback in the neural response generation models improves dialog quality, we present two different and complementary mechanisms to incorporate explicit feedback into a neural response generation model: reranking and direct modification of the loss function during training. Our studies show that a response generation model that incorporates these combined feedback mechanisms produce more engaging and coherent responses in an open-domain spoken dialog setting, significantly improving the response quality using both automatic and human evaluation.

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Natural Language Generation at Scale: A Case Study for Open Domain Question Answering
Alessandra Cervone | Chandra Khatri | Rahul Goel | Behnam Hedayatnia | Anu Venkatesh | Dilek Hakkani-Tur | Raefer Gabriel
Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

Current approaches to Natural Language Generation (NLG) for dialog mainly focus on domain-specific, task-oriented applications (e.g. restaurant booking) using limited ontologies (up to 20 slot types), usually without considering the previous conversation context. Furthermore, these approaches require large amounts of data for each domain, and do not benefit from examples that may be available for other domains. This work explores the feasibility of applying statistical NLG to scenarios requiring larger ontologies, such as multi-domain dialog applications or open-domain question answering (QA) based on knowledge graphs. We model NLG through an Encoder-Decoder framework using a large dataset of interactions between real-world users and a conversational agent for open-domain QA. First, we investigate the impact of increasing the number of slot types on the generation quality and experiment with different partitions of the QA data with progressively larger ontologies (up to 369 slot types). Second, we perform multi-task learning experiments between open-domain QA and task-oriented dialog, and benchmark our model on a popular NLG dataset. Moreover, we experiment with using the conversational context as an additional input to improve response generation quality. Our experiments show the feasibility of learning statistical NLG models for open-domain QA with larger ontologies.

2018

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ISO-Standard Domain-Independent Dialogue Act Tagging for Conversational Agents
Stefano Mezza | Alessandra Cervone | Evgeny Stepanov | Giuliano Tortoreto | Giuseppe Riccardi
Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Dialogue Act (DA) tagging is crucial for spoken language understanding systems, as it provides a general representation of speakers’ intents, not bound to a particular dialogue system. Unfortunately, publicly available data sets with DA annotation are all based on different annotation schemes and thus incompatible with each other. Moreover, their schemes often do not cover all aspects necessary for open-domain human-machine interaction. In this paper, we propose a methodology to map several publicly available corpora to a subset of the ISO standard, in order to create a large task-independent training corpus for DA classification. We show the feasibility of using this corpus to train a domain-independent DA tagger testing it on out-of-domain conversational data, and argue the importance of training on multiple corpora to achieve robustness across different DA categories.