Allison Lahnala


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Domain Transfer for Empathy, Distress, and Personality Prediction
Fabio Gruschka | Allison Lahnala | Charles Welch | Lucie Flek
Proceedings of the 13th Workshop on Computational Approaches to Subjectivity, Sentiment, & Social Media Analysis

This research contributes to the task of predicting empathy and personality traits within dialogue, an important aspect of natural language processing, as part of our experimental work for the WASSA 2023 Empathy and Emotion Shared Task. For predicting empathy, emotion polarity, and emotion intensity on turns within a dialogue, we employ adapters trained on social media interactions labeled with empathy ratings in a stacked composition with the target task adapters. Furthermore, we embed demographic information to predict Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) subscales and Big Five Personality Traits utilizing BERT-based models. The results from our study provide valuable insights, contributing to advancements in understanding human behavior and interaction through text. Our team ranked 2nd on the personality and empathy prediction tasks, 4th on the interpersonal reactivity index, and 6th on the conversational task.

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Challenges of GPT-3-Based Conversational Agents for Healthcare
Fabian Lechner | Allison Lahnala | Charles Welch | Lucie Flek
Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing

The potential of medical domain dialogue agents lies in their ability to provide patients with faster information access while enabling medical specialists to concentrate on critical tasks. However, the integration of large-language models (LLMs) into these agents presents certain limitations that may result in serious consequences. This paper investigates the challenges and risks of using GPT-3-based models for medical question-answering (MedQA). We perform several evaluations contextualized in terms of standard medical principles. We provide a procedure for manually designing patient queries to stress-test high-risk limitations of LLMs in MedQA systems. Our analysis reveals that LLMs fail to respond adequately to these queries, generating erroneous medical information, unsafe recommendations, and content that may be considered offensive.


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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

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Investigating User Radicalization: A Novel Dataset for Identifying Fine-Grained Temporal Shifts in Opinion
Flora Sakketou | Allison Lahnala | Liane Vogel | Lucie Flek
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

There is an increasing need for the ability to model fine-grained opinion shifts of social media users, as concerns about the potential polarizing social effects increase. However, the lack of publicly available datasets that are suitable for the task presents a major challenge. In this paper, we introduce an innovative annotated dataset for modeling subtle opinion fluctuations and detecting fine-grained stances. The dataset includes a sufficient amount of stance polarity and intensity labels per user over time and within entire conversational threads, thus making subtle opinion fluctuations detectable both in long term and in short term. All posts are annotated by non-experts and a significant portion of the data is also annotated by experts. We provide a strategy for recruiting suitable non-experts. Our analysis of the inter-annotator agreements shows that the resulting annotations obtained from the majority vote of the non-experts are of comparable quality to the annotations of the experts. We provide analyses of the stance evolution in short term and long term levels, a comparison of language usage between users with vacillating and resolute attitudes, and fine-grained stance detection baselines.

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A Critical Reflection and Forward Perspective on Empathy and Natural Language Processing
Allison Lahnala | Charles Welch | David Jurgens | Lucie Flek
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

We review the state of research on empathy in natural language processing and identify the following issues: (1) empathy definitions are absent or abstract, which (2) leads to low construct validity and reproducibility. Moreover, (3) emotional empathy is overemphasized, skewing our focus to a narrow subset of simplified tasks. We believe these issues hinder research progress and argue that current directions will benefit from a clear conceptualization that includes operationalizing cognitive empathy components. Our main objectives are to provide insight and guidance on empathy conceptualization for NLP research objectives and to encourage researchers to pursue the overlooked opportunities in this area, highly relevant, e.g., for clinical and educational sectors.

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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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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


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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.