Noah Goodman

Also published as: Noah D. Goodman


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pyvene: A Library for Understanding and Improving PyTorch Models via Interventions
Zhengxuan Wu | Atticus Geiger | Aryaman Arora | Jing Huang | Zheng Wang | Noah Goodman | Christopher Manning | Christopher Potts
Proceedings of the 2024 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (Volume 3: System Demonstrations)

Interventions on model-internal states are fundamental operations in many areas of AI, including model editing, steering, robustness, and interpretability. To facilitate such research, we introduce pyvene, an open-source Python library that supports customizable interventions on a range of different PyTorch modules. pyvene supports complex intervention schemes with an intuitive configuration format, and its interventions can be static or include trainable parameters. We show how pyvene provides a unified and extensible framework for performing interventions on neural models and sharing the intervened upon models with others. We illustrate the power of the library via interpretability analyses using causal abstraction and knowledge localization. We publish our library through Python Package Index (PyPI) and provide code, documentation, and tutorials at ‘‘.

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Backtracing: Retrieving the Cause of the Query
Rose Wang | Pawan Wirawarn | Omar Khattab | Noah Goodman | Dorottya Demszky
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EACL 2024

Many online content portals allow users to ask questions to supplement their understanding (e.g., of lectures). While information retrieval (IR) systems may provide answers for such user queries, they do not directly assist content creators—such as lecturers who want to improve their content—identify segments that caused a user to ask those questions.We introduce the task of backtracing, in which systems retrieve the text segment that most likely caused a user query.We formalize three real-world domains for which backtracing is important in improving content delivery and communication: understanding the cause of (a) student confusion in the Lecture domain, (b) reader curiosity in the News Article domain, and (c) user emotion in the Conversation domain.We evaluate the zero-shot performance of popular information retrieval methods and language modeling methods, including bi-encoder, re-ranking and likelihood-based methods and ChatGPT.While traditional IR systems retrieve semantically relevant information (e.g., details on “projection matrices” for a query “does projecting multiple times still lead to the same point?”), they often miss the causally relevant context (e.g., the lecturer states “projecting twice gets me the same answer as one projection”). Our results show that there is room for improvement on backtracing and it requires new retrieval approaches.We hope our benchmark serves to improve future retrieval systems for backtracing, spawning systems that refine content generation and identify linguistic triggers influencing user queries.


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SIGHT: A Large Annotated Dataset on Student Insights Gathered from Higher Education Transcripts
Rose Wang | Pawan Wirawarn | Noah Goodman | Dorottya Demszky
Proceedings of the 18th Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications (BEA 2023)

Lectures are a learning experience for both students and teachers. Students learn from teachers about the subject material, while teachers learn from students about how to refine their instruction. Unfortunately, online student feedback is unstructured and abundant, making it challenging for teachers to learn and improve. We take a step towards tackling this challenge. First, we contribute a dataset for studying this problem: SIGHT is a large dataset of 288 math lecture transcripts and 15,784 comments collected from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) YouTube channel. Second, we develop a rubric for categorizing feedback types using qualitative analysis. Qualitative analysis methods are powerful in uncovering domain-specific insights, however they are costly to apply to large data sources. To overcome this challenge, we propose a set of best practices for using large language models (LLMs) to cheaply classify the comments at scale. We observe a striking correlation between the model’s and humans’ annotation: Categories with consistent human annotations (0.9 inter-rater reliability, IRR) also display higher human-model agreement (0.7), while categories with less consistent human annotations (0.7-0.8 IRR) correspondingly demonstrate lower human-model agreement (0.3-0.5). These techniques uncover useful student feedback from thousands of comments, costing around $0.002 per comment. We conclude by discussing exciting future directions on using online student feedback and improving automated annotation techniques for qualitative research.


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Mixed-effects transformers for hierarchical adaptation
Julia White | Noah Goodman | Robert Hawkins
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Language differs dramatically from context to context. To some degree, large language models like GPT-3 account for such variation by conditioning on strings of initial input text, or prompts. However, prompting can be ineffective when contexts are sparse, out-of-sample, or extra-textual. In this paper, we introduce the mixed-effects transformer (MET), a novel approach for learning hierarchically-structured prefixes— lightweight modules prepended to an input sequence— to account for structured variation in language use. Specifically, we show how the popular class of mixed-effects regression models may be extended to transformer-based architectures using a regularized prefix-tuning procedure with dropout. We evaluate this approach on several domain-adaptation benchmarks, finding that it learns contextual variation from minimal data while generalizing well to unseen contexts.

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Concadia: Towards Image-Based Text Generation with a Purpose
Elisa Kreiss | Fei Fang | Noah Goodman | Christopher Potts
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Current deep learning models often achieve excellent results on benchmark image-to-text datasets but fail to generate texts that are useful in practice. We argue that to close this gap, it is vital to distinguish descriptions from captions based on their distinct communicative roles. Descriptions focus on visual features and are meant to replace an image (often to increase accessibility), whereas captions appear alongside an image to supply additional information. To motivate this distinction and help people put it into practice, we introduce the publicly available Wikipedia-based dataset Concadia consisting of 96,918 images with corresponding English-language descriptions, captions, and surrounding context. Using insights from Concadia, models trained on it, and a preregistered human-subjects experiment with human- and model-generated texts, we characterize the commonalities and differences between descriptions and captions. In addition, we show that, for generating both descriptions and captions, it is useful to augment image-to-text models with representations of the textual context in which the image appeared.

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Causal Distillation for Language Models
Zhengxuan Wu | Atticus Geiger | Joshua Rozner | Elisa Kreiss | Hanson Lu | Thomas Icard | Christopher Potts | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Distillation efforts have led to language models that are more compact and efficient without serious drops in performance. The standard approach to distillation trains a student model against two objectives: a task-specific objective (e.g., language modeling) and an imitation objective that encourages the hidden states of the student model to be similar to those of the larger teacher model. In this paper, we show that it is beneficial to augment distillation with a third objective that encourages the student to imitate the causal dynamics of the teacher through a distillation interchange intervention training objective (DIITO). DIITO pushes the student model to become a causal abstraction of the teacher model – a faithful model with simpler causal structure. DIITO is fully differentiable, easily implemented, and combines flexibly with other objectives. Compared against standard distillation with the same setting, DIITO results in lower perplexity on the WikiText-103M corpus (masked language modeling) and marked improvements on the GLUE benchmark (natural language understanding), SQuAD (question answering), and CoNLL-2003 (named entity recognition).


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Neural Event Semantics for Grounded Language Understanding
Shyamal Buch | Li Fei-Fei | Noah D. Goodman
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 9

We present a new conjunctivist framework, neural event semantics (NES), for compositional grounded language understanding. Our approach treats all words as classifiers that compose to form a sentence meaning by multiplying output scores. These classifiers apply to spatial regions (events) and NES derives its semantic structure from language by routing events to different classifier argument inputs via soft attention. NES is trainable end-to-end by gradient descent with minimal supervision. We evaluate our method on compositional grounded language tasks in controlled synthetic and real-world settings. NES offers stronger generalization capability than standard function-based compositional frameworks, while improving accuracy over state-of-the-art neural methods on real-world language tasks.

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Calibrate your listeners! Robust communication-based training for pragmatic speakers
Rose Wang | Julia White | Jesse Mu | Noah Goodman
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

To be good conversational partners, natural language processing (NLP) systems should be trained to produce contextually useful utterances. Prior work has investigated training NLP systems with communication-based objectives, where a neural listener stands in as a communication partner. However, these systems commonly suffer from semantic drift where the learned language diverges radically from natural language. We propose a method that uses a population of neural listeners to regularize speaker training. We first show that language drift originates from the poor uncertainty calibration of a neural listener, which makes high-certainty predictions on novel sentences. We explore ensemble- and dropout-based populations of listeners and find that the former results in better uncertainty quantification. We evaluate both population-based objectives on reference games, and show that the ensemble method with better calibration enables the speaker to generate pragmatic utterances while scaling to a large vocabulary and generalizing to new games and listeners.

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Question Generation for Adaptive Education
Megha Srivastava | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Intelligent and adaptive online education systems aim to make high-quality education available for a diverse range of students. However, existing systems usually depend on a pool of hand-made questions, limiting how fine-grained and open-ended they can be in adapting to individual students. We explore targeted question generation as a controllable sequence generation task. We first show how to fine-tune pre-trained language models for deep knowledge tracing (LM-KT). This model accurately predicts the probability of a student answering a question correctly, and generalizes to questions not seen in training. We then use LM-KT to specify the objective and data for training a model to generate questions conditioned on the student and target difficulty. Our results show we succeed at generating novel, well-calibrated language translation questions for second language learners from a real online education platform.

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Open-domain clarification question generation without question examples
Julia White | Gabriel Poesia | Robert Hawkins | Dorsa Sadigh | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

An overarching goal of natural language processing is to enable machines to communicate seamlessly with humans. However, natural language can be ambiguous or unclear. In cases of uncertainty, humans engage in an interactive process known as repair: asking questions and seeking clarification until their uncertainty is resolved. We propose a framework for building a visually grounded question-asking model capable of producing polar (yes-no) clarification questions to resolve misunderstandings in dialogue. Our model uses an expected information gain objective to derive informative questions from an off-the-shelf image captioner without requiring any supervised question-answer data. We demonstrate our model’s ability to pose questions that improve communicative success in a goal-oriented 20 questions game with synthetic and human answerers.


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Investigating Transferability in Pretrained Language Models
Alex Tamkin | Trisha Singh | Davide Giovanardi | Noah Goodman
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

How does language model pretraining help transfer learning? We consider a simple ablation technique for determining the impact of each pretrained layer on transfer task performance. This method, partial reinitialization, involves replacing different layers of a pretrained model with random weights, then finetuning the entire model on the transfer task and observing the change in performance. This technique reveals that in BERT, layers with high probing performance on downstream GLUE tasks are neither necessary nor sufficient for high accuracy on those tasks. Furthermore, the benefit of using pretrained parameters for a layer varies dramatically with finetuning dataset size: parameters that provide tremendous performance improvement when data is plentiful may provide negligible benefits in data-scarce settings. These results reveal the complexity of the transfer learning process, highlighting the limitations of methods that operate on frozen models or single data samples.

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Shaping Visual Representations with Language for Few-Shot Classification
Jesse Mu | Percy Liang | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

By describing the features and abstractions of our world, language is a crucial tool for human learning and a promising source of supervision for machine learning models. We use language to improve few-shot visual classification in the underexplored scenario where natural language task descriptions are available during training, but unavailable for novel tasks at test time. Existing models for this setting sample new descriptions at test time and use those to classify images. Instead, we propose language-shaped learning (LSL), an end-to-end model that regularizes visual representations to predict language. LSL is conceptually simpler, more data efficient, and outperforms baselines in two challenging few-shot domains.

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Continual Adaptation for Efficient Machine Communication
Robert Hawkins | Minae Kwon | Dorsa Sadigh | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 24th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning

To communicate with new partners in new contexts, humans rapidly form new linguistic conventions. Recent neural language models are able to comprehend and produce the existing conventions present in their training data, but are not able to flexibly and interactively adapt those conventions on the fly as humans do. We introduce an interactive repeated reference task as a benchmark for models of adaptation in communication and propose a regularized continual learning framework that allows an artificial agent initialized with a generic language model to more accurately and efficiently communicate with a partner over time. We evaluate this framework through simulations on COCO and in real-time reference game experiments with human partners.


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An Incremental Iterated Response Model of Pragmatics
Reuben Cohn-Gordon | Noah Goodman | Christopher Potts
Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics (SCiL) 2019

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Learning to Explain: Answering Why-Questions via Rephrasing
Allen Nie | Erin Bennett | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the First Workshop on NLP for Conversational AI

Providing plausible responses to why questions is a challenging but critical goal for language based human-machine interaction. Explanations are challenging in that they require many different forms of abstract knowledge and reasoning. Previous work has either relied on human-curated structured knowledge bases or detailed domain representation to generate satisfactory explanations. They are also often limited to ranking pre-existing explanation choices. In our work, we contribute to the under-explored area of generating natural language explanations for general phenomena. We automatically collect large datasets of explanation-phenomenon pairs which allow us to train sequence-to-sequence models to generate natural language explanations. We compare different training strategies and evaluate their performance using both automatic scores and human ratings. We demonstrate that our strategy is sufficient to generate highly plausible explanations for general open-domain phenomena compared to other models trained on different datasets.

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Lost in Machine Translation: A Method to Reduce Meaning Loss
Reuben Cohn-Gordon | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)

A desideratum of high-quality translation systems is that they preserve meaning, in the sense that two sentences with different meanings should not translate to one and the same sentence in another language. However, state-of-the-art systems often fail in this regard, particularly in cases where the source and target languages partition the “meaning space” in different ways. For instance, “I cut my finger.” and “I cut my finger off.” describe different states of the world but are translated to French (by both Fairseq and Google Translate) as “Je me suis coupé le doigt.”, which is ambiguous as to whether the finger is detached. More generally, translation systems are typically many-to-one (non-injective) functions from source to target language, which in many cases results in important distinctions in meaning being lost in translation. Building on Bayesian models of informative utterance production, we present a method to define a less ambiguous translation system in terms of an underlying pre-trained neural sequence-to-sequence model. This method increases injectivity, resulting in greater preservation of meaning as measured by improvement in cycle-consistency, without impeding translation quality (measured by BLEU score).

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Learning from Omission
Bill McDowell | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Pragmatic reasoning allows humans to go beyond the literal meaning when interpret- ing language in context. Previous work has shown that such reasoning can improve the performance of already-trained language understanding systems. Here, we explore whether pragmatic reasoning during training can improve the quality of learned meanings. Our experiments on reference game data show that end-to-end pragmatic training produces more accurate utterance interpretation models, especially when data is sparse and language is complex.

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DisSent: Learning Sentence Representations from Explicit Discourse Relations
Allen Nie | Erin Bennett | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Learning effective representations of sentences is one of the core missions of natural language understanding. Existing models either train on a vast amount of text, or require costly, manually curated sentence relation datasets. We show that with dependency parsing and rule-based rubrics, we can curate a high quality sentence relation task by leveraging explicit discourse relations. We show that our curated dataset provides an excellent signal for learning vector representations of sentence meaning, representing relations that can only be determined when the meanings of two sentences are combined. We demonstrate that the automatically curated corpus allows a bidirectional LSTM sentence encoder to yield high quality sentence embeddings and can serve as a supervised fine-tuning dataset for larger models such as BERT. Our fixed sentence embeddings achieve high performance on a variety of transfer tasks, including SentEval, and we achieve state-of-the-art results on Penn Discourse Treebank’s implicit relation prediction task.


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Planning, Inference and Pragmatics in Sequential Language Games
Fereshte Khani | Noah D. Goodman | Percy Liang
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 6

We study sequential language games in which two players, each with private information, communicate to achieve a common goal. In such games, a successful player must (i) infer the partner’s private information from the partner’s messages, (ii) generate messages that are most likely to help with the goal, and (iii) reason pragmatically about the partner’s strategy. We propose a model that captures all three characteristics and demonstrate their importance in capturing human behavior on a new goal-oriented dataset we collected using crowdsourcing.

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Pragmatically Informative Image Captioning with Character-Level Inference
Reuben Cohn-Gordon | Noah Goodman | Christopher Potts
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 2 (Short Papers)

We combine a neural image captioner with a Rational Speech Acts (RSA) model to make a system that is pragmatically informative: its objective is to produce captions that are not merely true but also distinguish their inputs from similar images. Previous attempts to combine RSA with neural image captioning require an inference which normalizes over the entire set of possible utterances. This poses a serious problem of efficiency, previously solved by sampling a small subset of possible utterances. We instead solve this problem by implementing a version of RSA which operates at the level of characters (“a”, “b”, “c”, ...) during the unrolling of the caption. We find that the utterance-level effect of referential captions can be obtained with only character-level decisions. Finally, we introduce an automatic method for testing the performance of pragmatic speaker models, and show that our model outperforms a non-pragmatic baseline as well as a word-level RSA captioner.


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Colors in Context: A Pragmatic Neural Model for Grounded Language Understanding
Will Monroe | Robert X.D. Hawkins | Noah D. Goodman | Christopher Potts
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 5

We present a model of pragmatic referring expression interpretation in a grounded communication task (identifying colors from descriptions) that draws upon predictions from two recurrent neural network classifiers, a speaker and a listener, unified by a recursive pragmatic reasoning framework. Experiments show that this combined pragmatic model interprets color descriptions more accurately than the classifiers from which it is built, and that much of this improvement results from combining the speaker and listener perspectives. We observe that pragmatic reasoning helps primarily in the hardest cases: when the model must distinguish very similar colors, or when few utterances adequately express the target color. Our findings make use of a newly-collected corpus of human utterances in color reference games, which exhibit a variety of pragmatic behaviors. We also show that the embedded speaker model reproduces many of these pragmatic behaviors.


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Learning to Generate Compositional Color Descriptions
Will Monroe | Noah D. Goodman | Christopher Potts
Proceedings of the 2016 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing


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Evaluating Models of Computation and Storage in Human Sentence Processing
Thang Luong | Timothy O’Donnell | Noah Goodman
Proceedings of the Sixth Workshop on Cognitive Aspects of Computational Language Learning