Allison Lahnala


2022

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Mitigating Toxic Degeneration with Empathetic Data: Exploring the Relationship Between Toxicity and Empathy
Allison Lahnala | Charles Welch | Béla Neuendorf | Lucie Flek
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Large pre-trained neural language models have supported the effectiveness of many NLP tasks, yet are still prone to generating toxic language hindering the safety of their use. Using empathetic data, we improve over recent work on controllable text generation that aims to reduce the toxicity of generated text. We find we are able to dramatically reduce the size of fine-tuning data to 7.5-30k samples while at the same time making significant improvements over state-of-the-art toxicity mitigation of up to 3.4% absolute reduction (26% relative) from the original work on 2.3m samples, by strategically sampling data based on empathy scores. We observe that the degree of improvements is subject to specific communication components of empathy. In particular, the more cognitive components of empathy significantly beat the original dataset in almost all experiments, while emotional empathy was tied to less improvement and even underperforming random samples of the original data. This is a particularly implicative insight for NLP work concerning empathy as until recently the research and resources built for it have exclusively considered empathy as an emotional concept.

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CAISA at WASSA 2022: Adapter-Tuning for Empathy Prediction
Allison Lahnala | Charles Welch | Lucie Flek
Proceedings of the 12th Workshop on Computational Approaches to Subjectivity, Sentiment & Social Media Analysis

We build a system that leverages adapters, a light weight and efficient method for leveraging large language models to perform the task Em- pathy and Distress prediction tasks for WASSA 2022. In our experiments, we find that stacking our empathy and distress adapters on a pre-trained emotion lassification adapter performs best compared to full fine-tuning approaches and emotion feature concatenation. We make our experimental code publicly available

2021

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Exploring Self-Identified Counseling Expertise in Online Support Forums
Allison Lahnala | Yuntian Zhao | Charles Welch | Jonathan K. Kummerfeld | Lawrence C An | Kenneth Resnicow | Rada Mihalcea | Verónica Pérez-Rosas
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

2020

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Expressive Interviewing: A Conversational System for Coping with COVID-19
Charles Welch | Allison Lahnala | Veronica Perez-Rosas | Siqi Shen | Sarah Seraj | Larry An | Kenneth Resnicow | James Pennebaker | Rada Mihalcea
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on NLP for COVID-19 (Part 2) at EMNLP 2020

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns for many regarding personal and public health implications, financial security and economic stability. Alongside many other unprecedented challenges, there are increasing concerns over social isolation and mental health. We introduce Expressive Interviewing – an interview-style conversational system that draws on ideas from motivational interviewing and expressive writing. Expressive Interviewing seeks to encourage users to express their thoughts and feelings through writing by asking them questions about how COVID-19 has impacted their lives. We present relevant aspects of the system’s design and implementation as well as quantitative and qualitative analyses of user interactions with the system. In addition, we conduct a comparative evaluation with a general purpose dialogue system for mental health that shows our system potential in helping users to cope with COVID-19 issues.