Maxwell Forbes


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Is GPT-3 Text Indistinguishable from Human Text? Scarecrow: A Framework for Scrutinizing Machine Text
Yao Dou | Maxwell Forbes | Rik Koncel-Kedziorski | Noah Smith | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Modern neural language models can produce remarkably fluent and grammatical text. So much, in fact, that recent work by Clark et al. (2021) has reported that conventional crowdsourcing can no longer reliably distinguish between machine-authored (GPT-3) and human-authored writing. As errors in machine generations become ever subtler and harder to spot, it poses a new challenge to the research community for robust machine text evaluation.We propose a new framework called Scarecrow for scrutinizing machine text via crowd annotation. To support the broad range of real machine errors that can be identified by laypeople, the ten error categories of Scarecrow—such as redundancy, commonsense errors, and incoherence—are identified through several rounds of crowd annotation experiments without a predefined ontology.We then use Scarecrow to collect over 41k error spans in human-written and machine-generated paragraphs of English language news text. We isolate factors for detailed analysis, including parameter count, training data, and various decoding-time configurations. Our approach successfully quantifies measurable gaps between human authored text and generations from models of several sizes, including fourteen configurations of GPT-3. In addition, our analysis unveils new insights, with detailed rationales provided by laypeople, e.g., that the commonsense capabilities have been improving with larger models while math capabilities have not, and that the choices of simple decoding hyperparameters can make remarkable differences on the perceived quality of machine text. We release our training material, annotation toolkit and dataset at


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Moral Stories: Situated Reasoning about Norms, Intents, Actions, and their Consequences
Denis Emelin | Ronan Le Bras | Jena D. Hwang | Maxwell Forbes | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In social settings, much of human behavior is governed by unspoken rules of conduct rooted in societal norms. For artificial systems to be fully integrated into social environments, adherence to such norms is a central prerequisite. To investigate whether language generation models can serve as behavioral priors for systems deployed in social settings, we evaluate their ability to generate action descriptions that achieve predefined goals under normative constraints. Moreover, we examine if models can anticipate likely consequences of actions that either observe or violate known norms, or explain why certain actions are preferable by generating relevant norm hypotheses. For this purpose, we introduce Moral Stories, a crowd-sourced dataset of structured, branching narratives for the study of grounded, goal-oriented social reasoning. Finally, we propose decoding strategies that combine multiple expert models to significantly improve the quality of generated actions, consequences, and norms compared to strong baselines.

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CLIPScore: A Reference-free Evaluation Metric for Image Captioning
Jack Hessel | Ari Holtzman | Maxwell Forbes | Ronan Le Bras | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Image captioning has conventionally relied on reference-based automatic evaluations, where machine captions are compared against captions written by humans. This is in contrast to the reference-free manner in which humans assess caption quality. In this paper, we report the surprising empirical finding that CLIP (Radford et al., 2021), a cross-modal model pretrained on 400M image+caption pairs from the web, can be used for robust automatic evaluation of image captioning without the need for references. Experiments spanning several corpora demonstrate that our new reference-free metric, CLIPScore, achieves the highest correlation with human judgements, outperforming existing reference-based metrics like CIDEr and SPICE. Information gain experiments demonstrate that CLIPScore, with its tight focus on image-text compatibility, is complementary to existing reference-based metrics that emphasize text-text similarities. Thus, we also present a reference-augmented version, RefCLIPScore, which achieves even higher correlation. Beyond literal description tasks, several case studies reveal domains where CLIPScore performs well (clip-art images, alt-text rating), but also where it is relatively weaker in comparison to reference-based metrics, e.g., news captions that require richer contextual knowledge.

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Edited Media Understanding Frames: Reasoning About the Intent and Implications of Visual Misinformation
Jeff Da | Maxwell Forbes | Rowan Zellers | Anthony Zheng | Jena D. Hwang | Antoine Bosselut | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Understanding manipulated media, from automatically generated ‘deepfakes’ to manually edited ones, raises novel research challenges. Because the vast majority of edited or manipulated images are benign, such as photoshopped images for visual enhancements, the key challenge is to understand the complex layers of underlying intents of media edits and their implications with respect to disinformation. In this paper, we study Edited Media Frames, a new formalism to understand visual media manipulation as structured annotations with respect to the intents, emotional reactions, attacks on individuals, and the overall implications of disinformation. We introduce a dataset for our task, EMU, with 56k question-answer pairs written in rich natural language. We evaluate a wide variety of vision-and-language models for our task, and introduce a new model PELICAN, which builds upon recent progress in pretrained multimodal representations. Our model obtains promising results on our dataset, with humans rating its answers as accurate 48.2% of the time. At the same time, there is still much work to be done – and we provide analysis that highlights areas for further progress.


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Social Chemistry 101: Learning to Reason about Social and Moral Norms
Maxwell Forbes | Jena D. Hwang | Vered Shwartz | Maarten Sap | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Social norms—the unspoken commonsense rules about acceptable social behavior—are crucial in understanding the underlying causes and intents of people’s actions in narratives. For example, underlying an action such as “wanting to call cops on my neighbor” are social norms that inform our conduct, such as “It is expected that you report crimes.” We present SOCIAL CHEMISTRY, a new conceptual formalism to study people’s everyday social norms and moral judgments over a rich spectrum of real life situations described in natural language. We introduce SOCIAL-CHEM-101, a large-scale corpus that catalogs 292k rules-of-thumb such as “It is rude to run a blender at 5am” as the basic conceptual units. Each rule-of-thumb is further broken down with 12 different dimensions of people’s judgments, including social judgments of good and bad, moral foundations, expected cultural pressure, and assumed legality, which together amount to over 4.5 million annotations of categorical labels and free-text descriptions. Comprehensive empirical results based on state-of-the-art neural models demonstrate that computational modeling of social norms is a promising research direction. Our model framework, Neural Norm Transformer, learns and generalizes SOCIAL-CHEM-101 to successfully reason about previously unseen situations, generating relevant (and potentially novel) attribute-aware social rules-of-thumb.

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Thinking Like a Skeptic: Defeasible Inference in Natural Language
Rachel Rudinger | Vered Shwartz | Jena D. Hwang | Chandra Bhagavatula | Maxwell Forbes | Ronan Le Bras | Noah A. Smith | Yejin Choi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Defeasible inference is a mode of reasoning in which an inference (X is a bird, therefore X flies) may be weakened or overturned in light of new evidence (X is a penguin). Though long recognized in classical AI and philosophy, defeasible inference has not been extensively studied in the context of contemporary data-driven research on natural language inference and commonsense reasoning. We introduce Defeasible NLI (abbreviated 𝛿-NLI), a dataset for defeasible inference in natural language. Defeasible NLI contains extensions to three existing inference datasets covering diverse modes of reasoning: common sense, natural language inference, and social norms. From Defeasible NLI, we develop both a classification and generation task for defeasible inference, and demonstrate that the generation task is much more challenging. Despite lagging human performance, however, generative models trained on this data are capable of writing sentences that weaken or strengthen a specified inference up to 68% of the time.


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Neural Naturalist: Generating Fine-Grained Image Comparisons
Maxwell Forbes | Christine Kaeser-Chen | Piyush Sharma | Serge Belongie
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

We introduce the new Birds-to-Words dataset of 41k sentences describing fine-grained differences between photographs of birds. The language collected is highly detailed, while remaining understandable to the everyday observer (e.g., “heart-shaped face,” “squat body”). Paragraph-length descriptions naturally adapt to varying levels of taxonomic and visual distance—drawn from a novel stratified sampling approach—with the appropriate level of detail. We propose a new model called Neural Naturalist that uses a joint image encoding and comparative module to generate comparative language, and evaluate the results with humans who must use the descriptions to distinguish real images. Our results indicate promising potential for neural models to explain differences in visual embedding space using natural language, as well as a concrete path for machine learning to aid citizen scientists in their effort to preserve biodiversity.


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Learning to Write with Cooperative Discriminators
Ari Holtzman | Jan Buys | Maxwell Forbes | Antoine Bosselut | David Golub | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Despite their local fluency, long-form text generated from RNNs is often generic, repetitive, and even self-contradictory. We propose a unified learning framework that collectively addresses all the above issues by composing a committee of discriminators that can guide a base RNN generator towards more globally coherent generations. More concretely, discriminators each specialize in a different principle of communication, such as Grice’s maxims, and are collectively combined with the base RNN generator through a composite decoding objective. Human evaluation demonstrates that text generated by our model is preferred over that of baselines by a large margin, significantly enhancing the overall coherence, style, and information of the generations.


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Verb Physics: Relative Physical Knowledge of Actions and Objects
Maxwell Forbes | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Learning commonsense knowledge from natural language text is nontrivial due to reporting bias: people rarely state the obvious, e.g., “My house is bigger than me.” However, while rarely stated explicitly, this trivial everyday knowledge does influence the way people talk about the world, which provides indirect clues to reason about the world. For example, a statement like, “Tyler entered his house” implies that his house is bigger than Tyler. In this paper, we present an approach to infer relative physical knowledge of actions and objects along five dimensions (e.g., size, weight, and strength) from unstructured natural language text. We frame knowledge acquisition as joint inference over two closely related problems: learning (1) relative physical knowledge of object pairs and (2) physical implications of actions when applied to those object pairs. Empirical results demonstrate that it is possible to extract knowledge of actions and objects from language and that joint inference over different types of knowledge improves performance.