Arkil Patel


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MAGNIFICo: Evaluating the In-Context Learning Ability of Large Language Models to Generalize to Novel Interpretations
Arkil Patel | Satwik Bhattamishra | Siva Reddy | Dzmitry Bahdanau
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Humans possess a remarkable ability to assign novel interpretations to linguistic expressions, enabling them to learn new words and understand community-specific connotations. However, Large Language Models (LLMs) have a knowledge cutoff and are costly to finetune repeatedly. Therefore, it is crucial for LLMs to learn novel interpretations in-context. In this paper, we systematically analyse the ability of LLMs to acquire novel interpretations using in-context learning. To facilitate our study, we introduce MAGNIFICo, an evaluation suite implemented within a text-to-SQL semantic parsing framework that incorporates diverse tokens and prompt settings to simulate real-world complexity. Experimental results on MAGNIFICo demonstrate that LLMs exhibit a surprisingly robust capacity for comprehending novel interpretations from natural language descriptions as well as from discussions within long conversations. Nevertheless, our findings also highlight the need for further improvements, particularly when interpreting unfamiliar words or when composing multiple novel interpretations simultaneously in the same example. Additionally, our analysis uncovers the semantic predispositions in LLMs and reveals the impact of recency bias for information presented in long contexts.

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Simplicity Bias in Transformers and their Ability to Learn Sparse Boolean Functions
Satwik Bhattamishra | Arkil Patel | Varun Kanade | Phil Blunsom
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Despite the widespread success of Transformers on NLP tasks, recent works have found that they struggle to model several formal languages when compared to recurrent models. This raises the question of why Transformers perform well in practice and whether they have any properties that enable them to generalize better than recurrent models. In this work, we conduct an extensive empirical study on Boolean functions to demonstrate the following: (i) Random Transformers are relatively more biased towards functions of low sensitivity. (ii) When trained on Boolean functions, both Transformers and LSTMs prioritize learning functions of low sensitivity, with Transformers ultimately converging to functions of lower sensitivity. (iii) On sparse Boolean functions which have low sensitivity, we find that Transformers generalize near perfectly even in the presence of noisy labels whereas LSTMs overfit and achieve poor generalization accuracy. Overall, our results provide strong quantifiable evidence that suggests differences in the inductive biases of Transformers and recurrent models which may help explain Transformer’s effective generalization performance despite relatively limited expressiveness.


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Revisiting the Compositional Generalization Abilities of Neural Sequence Models
Arkil Patel | Satwik Bhattamishra | Phil Blunsom | Navin Goyal
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Compositional generalization is a fundamental trait in humans, allowing us to effortlessly combine known phrases to form novel sentences. Recent works have claimed that standard seq-to-seq models severely lack the ability to compositionally generalize. In this paper, we focus on one-shot primitive generalization as introduced by the popular SCAN benchmark. We demonstrate that modifying the training distribution in simple and intuitive ways enables standard seq-to-seq models to achieve near-perfect generalization performance, thereby showing that their compositional generalization abilities were previously underestimated. We perform detailed empirical analysis of this phenomenon. Our results indicate that the generalization performance of models is highly sensitive to the characteristics of the training data which should be carefully considered while designing such benchmarks in future.

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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.


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Are NLP Models really able to Solve Simple Math Word Problems?
Arkil Patel | Satwik Bhattamishra | Navin Goyal
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

The problem of designing NLP solvers for math word problems (MWP) has seen sustained research activity and steady gains in the test accuracy. Since existing solvers achieve high performance on the benchmark datasets for elementary level MWPs containing one-unknown arithmetic word problems, such problems are often considered “solved” with the bulk of research attention moving to more complex MWPs. In this paper, we restrict our attention to English MWPs taught in grades four and lower. We provide strong evidence that the existing MWP solvers rely on shallow heuristics to achieve high performance on the benchmark datasets. To this end, we show that MWP solvers that do not have access to the question asked in the MWP can still solve a large fraction of MWPs. Similarly, models that treat MWPs as bag-of-words can also achieve surprisingly high accuracy. Further, we introduce a challenge dataset, SVAMP, created by applying carefully chosen variations over examples sampled from existing datasets. The best accuracy achieved by state-of-the-art models is substantially lower on SVAMP, thus showing that much remains to be done even for the simplest of the MWPs.


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On the Computational Power of Transformers and Its Implications in Sequence Modeling
Satwik Bhattamishra | Arkil Patel | Navin Goyal
Proceedings of the 24th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning

Transformers are being used extensively across several sequence modeling tasks. Significant research effort has been devoted to experimentally probe the inner workings of Transformers. However, our conceptual and theoretical understanding of their power and inherent limitations is still nascent. In particular, the roles of various components in Transformers such as positional encodings, attention heads, residual connections, and feedforward networks, are not clear. In this paper, we take a step towards answering these questions. We analyze the computational power as captured by Turing-completeness. We first provide an alternate and simpler proof to show that vanilla Transformers are Turing-complete and then we prove that Transformers with only positional masking and without any positional encoding are also Turing-complete. We further analyze the necessity of each component for the Turing-completeness of the network; interestingly, we find that a particular type of residual connection is necessary. We demonstrate the practical implications of our results via experiments on machine translation and synthetic tasks.