Bernhard Schoelkopf


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Causal Direction of Data Collection Matters: Implications of Causal and Anticausal Learning for NLP
Zhijing Jin | Julius von Kügelgen | Jingwei Ni | Tejas Vaidhya | Ayush Kaushal | Mrinmaya Sachan | Bernhard Schoelkopf
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The principle of independent causal mechanisms (ICM) states that generative processes of real world data consist of independent modules which do not influence or inform each other. While this idea has led to fruitful developments in the field of causal inference, it is not widely-known in the NLP community. In this work, we argue that the causal direction of the data collection process bears nontrivial implications that can explain a number of published NLP findings, such as differences in semi-supervised learning (SSL) and domain adaptation (DA) performance across different settings. We categorize common NLP tasks according to their causal direction and empirically assay the validity of the ICM principle for text data using minimum description length. We conduct an extensive meta-analysis of over 100 published SSL and 30 DA studies, and find that the results are consistent with our expectations based on causal insights. This work presents the first attempt to analyze the ICM principle in NLP, and provides constructive suggestions for future modeling choices.

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Mining the Cause of Political Decision-Making from Social Media: A Case Study of COVID-19 Policies across the US States
Zhijing Jin | Zeyu Peng | Tejas Vaidhya | Bernhard Schoelkopf | Rada Mihalcea
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Mining the causes of political decision-making is an active research area in the field of political science. In the past, most studies have focused on long-term policies that are collected over several decades of time, and have primarily relied on surveys as the main source of predictors. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a new political phenomenon, where political decision-making consists of frequent short-term decisions, all on the same controlled topic—the pandemic. In this paper, we focus on the question of how public opinion influences policy decisions, while controlling for confounders such as COVID-19 case increases or unemployment rates. Using a dataset consisting of Twitter data from the 50 US states, we classify the sentiments toward governors of each state, and conduct controlled studies and comparisons. Based on the compiled samples of sentiments, policies, and confounders, we conduct causal inference to discover trends in political decision-making across different states.