Ankur Sikarwar


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When Can Transformers Ground and Compose: Insights from Compositional Generalization Benchmarks
Ankur Sikarwar | Arkil Patel | Navin Goyal
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Humans can reason compositionally whilst grounding language utterances to the real world. Recent benchmarks like ReaSCAN (Wu et al., 2021) use navigation tasks grounded in a grid world to assess whether neural models exhibit similar capabilities. In this work, we present a simple transformer-based model that outperforms specialized architectures on ReaSCAN and a modified version (Qiu et al., 2021) of gSCAN (Ruis et al., 2020). On analyzing the task, we find that identifying the target location in the grid world is the main challenge for the models. Furthermore, we show that a particular split in ReaSCAN, which tests depth generalization, is unfair. On an amended version of this split, we show that transformers can generalize to deeper input structures. Finally, we design a simpler grounded compositional generalization task, RefEx, to investigate how transformers reason compositionally. We show that a single self-attention layer with a single head generalizes to novel combinations of object attributes. Moreover, we derive a precise mathematical construction of the transformer’s computations from the learned network. Overall, we provide valuable insights about the grounded compositional generalization task and the behaviour of transformers on it, which would be useful for researchers working in this area.