Understanding natural language requires common sense, one aspect of which is the ability to discern the plausibility of events. While distributional models—most recently pre-trained, Transformer language models—have demonstrated improvements in modeling event plausibility, their performance still falls short of humans’. In this work, we show that Transformer-based plausibility models are markedly inconsistent across the conceptual classes of a lexical hierarchy, inferring that “a person breathing” is plausible while “a dentist breathing” is not, for example. We find this inconsistency persists even when models are softly injected with lexical knowledge, and we present a simple post-hoc method of forcing model consistency that improves correlation with human plausibility judgements.
A false contract is more likely to be rejected than a contract is, yet a false key is less likely than a key to open doors. While correctly interpreting and assessing the effects of such adjective-noun pairs (e.g., false key) on the plausibility of given events (e.g., opening doors) underpins many natural language understanding tasks, doing so often requires a significant degree of world knowledge and common-sense reasoning. We introduce ADEPT – a large-scale semantic plausibility task consisting of over 16 thousand sentences that are paired with slightly modified versions obtained by adding an adjective to a noun. Overall, we find that while the task appears easier for human judges (85% accuracy), it proves more difficult for transformer-based models like RoBERTa (71% accuracy). Our experiments also show that neither the adjective itself nor its taxonomic class suffice in determining the correct plausibility judgement, emphasizing the importance of endowing automatic natural language understanding systems with more context sensitivity and common-sense reasoning.
Modeling semantic plausibility requires commonsense knowledge about the world and has been used as a testbed for exploring various knowledge representations. Previous work has focused specifically on modeling physical plausibility and shown that distributional methods fail when tested in a supervised setting. At the same time, distributional models, namely large pretrained language models, have led to improved results for many natural language understanding tasks. In this work, we show that these pretrained language models are in fact effective at modeling physical plausibility in the supervised setting. We therefore present the more difficult problem of learning to model physical plausibility directly from text. We create a training set by extracting attested events from a large corpus, and we provide a baseline for training on these attested events in a self-supervised manner and testing on a physical plausibility task. We believe results could be further improved by injecting explicit commonsense knowledge into a distributional model.