Jerry Wei


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Symbol tuning improves in-context learning in language models
Jerry Wei | Le Hou | Andrew Lampinen | Xiangning Chen | Da Huang | Yi Tay | Xinyun Chen | Yifeng Lu | Denny Zhou | Tengyu Ma | Quoc Le
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We present symbol tuning - finetuning language models on in-context input-label pairs where natural language labels (e.g., “positive/negative sentiment”) are replaced with arbitrary symbols (e.g., “foo/bar”). Symbol tuning leverages the intuition that when a model cannot use instructions or natural language labels to figure out a task, it must instead do so by learning the input-label mappings. We experiment with symbol tuning across PaLM models up to 540B parameters and observe benefits across various settings. First, symbol tuning boosts performance on unseen in-context learning tasks and is much more robust to underspecified prompts, such as those without instructions or without natural language labels. Second, symbol-tuned models are much stronger at algorithmic reasoning tasks, with up to 18.2% better performance on the List Functions benchmark and up to 15.3% better performance on the Simple Turing Concepts benchmark. Finally, symbol-tuned models show large improvements in following flipped-labels presented in-context, meaning that they are more capable of using in-context information to override prior knowledge.


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What Are People Asking About COVID-19? A Question Classification Dataset
Jerry Wei | Chengyu Huang | Soroush Vosoughi | Jason Wei
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on NLP for COVID-19 at ACL 2020

We present COVID-Q, a set of 1,690 questions about COVID-19 from 13 sources, which we annotate into 15 question categories and 207 question clusters. The most common questions in our dataset asked about transmission, prevention, and societal effects of COVID, and we found that many questions that appeared in multiple sources were not answered by any FAQ websites of reputable organizations such as the CDC and FDA. We post our dataset publicly at For classifying questions into 15 categories, a BERT baseline scored 58.1% accuracy when trained on 20 examples per category, and for a question clustering task, a BERT + triplet loss baseline achieved 49.5% accuracy. We hope COVID-Q can help either for direct use in developing applied systems or as a domain-specific resource for model evaluation.