Katherine Atwell


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Combining Discourse Coherence with Large Language Models for More Inclusive, Equitable, and Robust Task-Oriented Dialogue
Katherine Atwell | Mert Inan | Anthony B. Sicilia | Malihe Alikhani
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

Large language models (LLMs) are capable of generating well-formed responses, but using LLMs to generate responses on the fly is not yet feasible for many task-oriented systems. Modular architectures are often still required for safety and privacy guarantees on the output. We hypothesize that an offline generation approach using discourse theories, formal grammar rules, and LLMs can allow us to generate human-like, coherent text in a more efficient, robust, and inclusive manner within a task-oriented setting. To this end, we present the first discourse-aware multimodal task-oriented dialogue system that combines discourse theories with offline LLM generation. We deploy our bot as an app to the general public and keep track of the user ratings for six months. Our user ratings show an improvement from 2.8 to 3.5 out of 5 with the introduction of discourse coherence theories. We also show that our model reduces misunderstandings in the dialect of African-American Vernacular English from 93% to 57%. While terms of use prevent us from releasing our entire codebase, we release our code in a format that can be integrated into most existing dialogue systems.


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How people talk about each other: Modeling Generalized Intergroup Bias and Emotion
Venkata Subrahmanyan Govindarajan | Katherine Atwell | Barea Sinno | Malihe Alikhani | David I. Beaver | Junyi Jessy Li
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Current studies of bias in NLP rely mainly on identifying (unwanted or negative) bias towards a specific demographic group. While this has led to progress recognizing and mitigating negative bias, and having a clear notion of the targeted group is necessary, it is not always practical. In this work we extrapolate to a broader notion of bias, rooted in social science and psychology literature. We move towards predicting interpersonal group relationship (IGR) - modeling the relationship between the speaker and the target in an utterance - using fine-grained interpersonal emotions as an anchor. We build and release a dataset of English tweets by US Congress members annotated for interpersonal emotion - the first of its kind, and ‘found supervision’ for IGR labels; our analyses show that subtle emotional signals are indicative of different biases. While humans can perform better than chance at identifying IGR given an utterance, we show that neural models perform much better; furthermore, a shared encoding between IGR and interpersonal perceived emotion enabled performance gains in both tasks.

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Multilingual Content Moderation: A Case Study on Reddit
Meng Ye | Karan Sikka | Katherine Atwell | Sabit Hassan | Ajay Divakaran | Malihe Alikhani
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Content moderation is the process of flagging content based on pre-defined platform rules. There has been a growing need for AI moderators to safeguard users as well as protect the mental health of human moderators from traumatic content. While prior works have focused on identifying hateful/offensive language, they are not adequate for meeting the challenges of content moderation since 1) moderation decisions are based on violation of rules, which subsumes detection of offensive speech, and 2) such rules often differ across communities which entails an adaptive solution. We propose to study the challenges of content moderation by introducing a multilingual dataset of 1.8 Million Reddit comments spanning 56 subreddits in English, German, Spanish and French1. We perform extensive experimental analysis to highlight the underlying challenges and suggest related research problems such as cross-lingual transfer, learning under label noise (human biases), transfer of moderation models, and predicting the violated rule. Our dataset and analysis can help better prepare for the challenges and opportunities of auto moderation.


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The Change that Matters in Discourse Parsing: Estimating the Impact of Domain Shift on Parser Error
Katherine Atwell | Anthony Sicilia | Seong Jae Hwang | Malihe Alikhani
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Discourse analysis allows us to attain inferences of a text document that extend beyond the sentence-level. The current performance of discourse models is very low on texts outside of the training distribution’s coverage, diminishing the practical utility of existing models. There is need for a measure that can inform us to what extent our model generalizes from the training to the test sample when these samples may be drawn from distinct distributions. While this can be estimated via distribution shift, we argue that this does not directly correlate with change in the observed error of a classifier (i.e. error-gap). Thus, we propose to use a statistic from the theoretical domain adaptation literature which can be directly tied to error-gap. We study the bias of this statistic as an estimator of error-gap both theoretically and through a large-scale empirical study of over 2400 experiments on 6 discourse datasets from domains including, but not limited to: news, biomedical texts, TED talks, Reddit posts, and fiction. Our results not only motivate our proposal and help us to understand its limitations, but also provide insight on the properties of discourse models and datasets which improve performance in domain adaptation. For instance, we find that non-news datasets are slightly easier to transfer to than news datasets when the training and test sets are very different. Our code and an associated Python package are available to allow practitioners to make more informed model and dataset choices.

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Political Ideology and Polarization: A Multi-dimensional Approach
Barea Sinno | Bernardo Oviedo | Katherine Atwell | Malihe Alikhani | Junyi Jessy Li
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Analyzing ideology and polarization is of critical importance in advancing our grasp of modern politics. Recent research has made great strides towards understanding the ideological bias (i.e., stance) of news media along the left-right spectrum. In this work, we instead take a novel and more nuanced approach for the study of ideology based on its left or right positions on the issue being discussed. Aligned with the theoretical accounts in political science, we treat ideology as a multi-dimensional construct, and introduce the first diachronic dataset of news articles whose ideological positions are annotated by trained political scientists and linguists at the paragraph level. We showcase that, by controlling for the author’s stance, our method allows for the quantitative and temporal measurement and analysis of polarization as a multidimensional ideological distance. We further present baseline models for ideology prediction, outlining a challenging task distinct from stance detection.

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The Role of Context and Uncertainty in Shallow Discourse Parsing
Katherine Atwell | Remi Choi | Junyi Jessy Li | Malihe Alikhani
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Discourse parsing has proven to be useful for a number of NLP tasks that require complex reasoning. However, over a decade since the advent of the Penn Discourse Treebank, predicting implicit discourse relations in text remains challenging. There are several possible reasons for this, and we hypothesize that models should be exposed to more context as it plays an important role in accurate human annotation; meanwhile adding uncertainty measures can improve model accuracy and calibration. To thoroughly investigate this phenomenon, we perform a series of experiments to determine 1) the effects of context on human judgments, and 2) the effect of quantifying uncertainty with annotator confidence ratings on model accuracy and calibration (which we measure using the Brier score (Brier et al, 1950)). We find that including annotator accuracy and confidence improves model accuracy, and incorporating confidence in the model’s temperature function can lead to models with significantly better-calibrated confidence measures. We also find some insightful qualitative results regarding human and model behavior on these datasets.

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APPDIA: A Discourse-aware Transformer-based Style Transfer Model for Offensive Social Media Conversations
Katherine Atwell | Sabit Hassan | Malihe Alikhani
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Using style-transfer models to reduce offensiveness of social media comments can help foster a more inclusive environment. However, there are no sizable datasets that contain offensive texts and their inoffensive counterparts, and fine-tuning pretrained models with limited labeled data can lead to the loss of original meaning in the style-transferred text. To address this issue, we provide two major contributions. First, we release the first publicly-available, parallel corpus of offensive Reddit comments and their style-transferred counterparts annotated by expert sociolinguists. Then, we introduce the first discourse-aware style-transfer models that can effectively reduce offensiveness in Reddit text while preserving the meaning of the original text. These models are the first to examine inferential links between the comment and the text it is replying to when transferring the style of offensive Reddit text. We propose two different methods of integrating discourse relations with pretrained transformer models and evaluate them on our dataset of offensive comments from Reddit and their inoffensive counterparts. Improvements over the baseline with respect to both automatic metrics and human evaluation indicate that our discourse-aware models are better at preserving meaning in style-transferred text when compared to the state-of-the-art discourse-agnostic models.


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Where Are We in Discourse Relation Recognition?
Katherine Atwell | Junyi Jessy Li | Malihe Alikhani
Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Discourse parsers recognize the intentional and inferential relationships that organize extended texts. They have had a great influence on a variety of NLP tasks as well as theoretical studies in linguistics and cognitive science. However it is often difficult to achieve good results from current discourse models, largely due to the difficulty of the task, particularly recognizing implicit discourse relations. Recent developments in transformer-based models have shown great promise on these analyses, but challenges still remain. We present a position paper which provides a systematic analysis of the state of the art discourse parsers. We aim to examine the performance of current discourse parsing models via gradual domain shift: within the corpus, on in-domain texts, and on out-of-domain texts, and discuss the differences between the transformer-based models and the previous models in predicting different types of implicit relations both inter- and intra-sentential. We conclude by describing several shortcomings of the existing models and a discussion of how future work should approach this problem.