Lena Jäger


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Pre-Trained Language Models Augmented with Synthetic Scanpaths for Natural Language Understanding
Shuwen Deng | Paul Prasse | David Reich | Tobias Scheffer | Lena Jäger
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Human gaze data offer cognitive information that reflects natural language comprehension. Indeed, augmenting language models with human scanpaths has proven beneficial for a range of NLP tasks, including language understanding. However, the applicability of this approach is hampered because the abundance of text corpora is contrasted by a scarcity of gaze data. Although models for the generation of human-like scanpaths during reading have been developed, the potential of synthetic gaze data across NLP tasks remains largely unexplored. We develop a model that integrates synthetic scanpath generation with a scanpath-augmented language model, eliminating the need for human gaze data. Since the model’s error gradient can be propagated throughout all parts of the model, the scanpath generator can be fine-tuned to downstream tasks. We find that the proposed model not only outperforms the underlying language model, but achieves a performance that is comparable to a language model augmented with real human gaze data. Our code is publicly available.

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ScanDL: A Diffusion Model for Generating Synthetic Scanpaths on Texts
Lena Bolliger | David Reich | Patrick Haller | Deborah Jakobi | Paul Prasse | Lena Jäger
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Eye movements in reading play a crucial role in psycholinguistic research studying the cognitive mechanisms underlying human language processing. More recently, the tight coupling between eye movements and cognition has also been leveraged for language-related machine learning tasks such as the interpretability, enhancement, and pre-training of language models, as well as the inference of reader- and text-specific properties. However, scarcity of eye movement data and its unavailability at application time poses a major challenge for this line of research. Initially, this problem was tackled by resorting to cognitive models for synthesizing eye movement data. However, for the sole purpose of generating human-like scanpaths, purely data-driven machine-learning-based methods have proven to be more suitable. Following recent advances in adapting diffusion processes to discrete data, we propose ScanDL, a novel discrete sequence-to-sequence diffusion model that generates synthetic scanpaths on texts. By leveraging pre-trained word representations and jointly embedding both the stimulus text and the fixation sequence, our model captures multi-modal interactions between the two inputs. We evaluate ScanDL within- and across-dataset and demonstrate that it significantly outperforms state-of-the-art scanpath generation methods. Finally, we provide an extensive psycholinguistic analysis that underlines the model’s ability to exhibit human-like reading behavior. Our implementation is made available at https://github.com/DiLi-Lab/ScanDL.


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Eye-tracking based classification of Mandarin Chinese readers with and without dyslexia using neural sequence models
Patrick Haller | Andreas Säuberli | Sarah Kiener | Jinger Pan | Ming Yan | Lena Jäger
Proceedings of the Workshop on Text Simplification, Accessibility, and Readability (TSAR-2022)

Eye movements are known to reflect cognitive processes in reading, and psychological reading research has shown that eye gaze patterns differ between readers with and without dyslexia. In recent years, researchers have attempted to classify readers with dyslexia based on their eye movements using Support Vector Machines (SVMs). However, these approaches (i) are based on highly aggregated features averaged over all words read by a participant, thus disregarding the sequential nature of the eye movements, and (ii) do not consider the linguistic stimulus and its interaction with the reader’s eye movements. In the present work, we propose two simple sequence models that process eye movements on the entire stimulus without the need of aggregating features across the sentence. Additionally, we incorporate the linguistic stimulus into the model in two ways—contextualized word embeddings and manually extracted linguistic features. The models are evaluated on a Mandarin Chinese dataset containing eye movements from children with and without dyslexia. Our results show that (i) even for a logographic script such as Chinese, sequence models are able to classify dyslexia on eye gaze sequences, reaching state-of-the-art performance, and (ii) incorporating the linguistic stimulus does not help to improve classification performance.

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Patterns of Text Readability in Human and Predicted Eye Movements
Nora Hollenstein | Itziar Gonzalez-Dios | Lisa Beinborn | Lena Jäger
Proceedings of the Workshop on Cognitive Aspects of the Lexicon

It has been shown that multilingual transformer models are able to predict human reading behavior when fine-tuned on small amounts of eye tracking data. As the cumulated prediction results do not provide insights into the linguistic cues that the model acquires to predict reading behavior, we conduct a deeper analysis of the predictions from the perspective of readability. We try to disentangle the three-fold relationship between human eye movements, the capability of language models to predict these eye movement patterns, and sentence-level readability measures for English. We compare a range of model configurations to multiple baselines. We show that the models exhibit difficulties with function words and that pre-training only provides limited advantages for linguistic generalization.


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Multilingual Language Models Predict Human Reading Behavior
Nora Hollenstein | Federico Pirovano | Ce Zhang | Lena Jäger | Lisa Beinborn
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

We analyze if large language models are able to predict patterns of human reading behavior. We compare the performance of language-specific and multilingual pretrained transformer models to predict reading time measures reflecting natural human sentence processing on Dutch, English, German, and Russian texts. This results in accurate models of human reading behavior, which indicates that transformer models implicitly encode relative importance in language in a way that is comparable to human processing mechanisms. We find that BERT and XLM models successfully predict a range of eye tracking features. In a series of experiments, we analyze the cross-domain and cross-language abilities of these models and show how they reflect human sentence processing.

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Revisiting the Uniform Information Density Hypothesis
Clara Meister | Tiago Pimentel | Patrick Haller | Lena Jäger | Ryan Cotterell | Roger Levy
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The uniform information density (UID) hypothesis posits a preference among language users for utterances structured such that information is distributed uniformly across a signal. While its implications on language production have been well explored, the hypothesis potentially makes predictions about language comprehension and linguistic acceptability as well. Further, it is unclear how uniformity in a linguistic signal—or lack thereof—should be measured, and over which linguistic unit, e.g., the sentence or language level, this uniformity should hold. Here we investigate these facets of the UID hypothesis using reading time and acceptability data. While our reading time results are generally consistent with previous work, they are also consistent with a weakly super-linear effect of surprisal, which would be compatible with UID’s predictions. For acceptability judgments, we find clearer evidence that non-uniformity in information density is predictive of lower acceptability. We then explore multiple operationalizations of UID, motivated by different interpretations of the original hypothesis, and analyze the scope over which the pressure towards uniformity is exerted. The explanatory power of a subset of the proposed operationalizations suggests that the strongest trend may be a regression towards a mean surprisal across the language, rather than the phrase, sentence, or document—a finding that supports a typical interpretation of UID, namely that it is the byproduct of language users maximizing the use of a (hypothetical) communication channel.