Songyang Gao

Also published as: SongYang Gao


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Farewell to Aimless Large-scale Pretraining: Influential Subset Selection for Language Model
Xiao Wang | Weikang Zhou | Qi Zhang | Jie Zhou | SongYang Gao | Junzhe Wang | Menghan Zhang | Xiang Gao | Yun Wen Chen | Tao Gui
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Pretrained language models have achieved remarkable success in various natural language processing tasks. However, pretraining has recently shifted toward larger models and larger data, which has resulted in significant computational and energy costs. In this paper, we propose Influence Subset Selection (ISS) for language model, which explicitly utilizes end-task knowledge to select a tiny subset of the pretraining corpus. Specifically, the ISS selects the samples that will provide the most positive influence on the performance of the end task. Furthermore, we design a gradient matching-based influence estimation method, which can drastically reduce the computation time of influence. With only 0.45% of the data and a three-orders-of-magnitude lower computational cost, ISS outperformed pretrained models (e.g., RoBERTa) on eight datasets covering four domains.

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On the Universal Adversarial Perturbations for Efficient Data-free Adversarial Detection
SongYang Gao | Shihan Dou | Qi Zhang | Xuanjing Huang | Jin Ma | Ying Shan
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Detecting adversarial samples that are carefully crafted to fool the model is a critical step to socially-secure applications. However, existing adversarial detection methods require access to sufficient training data, which brings noteworthy concerns regarding privacy leakage and generalizability. In this work, we validate that the adversarial sample generated by attack algorithms is strongly related to a specific vector in the high-dimensional inputs. Such vectors, namely UAPs (Universal Adversarial Perturbations), can be calculated without original training data. Based on this discovery, we propose a data-agnostic adversarial detection framework, which induces different responses between normal and adversarial samples to UAPs. Experimental results show that our method achieves competitive detection performance on various text classification tasks, and maintains an equivalent time consumption to normal inference.

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RealBehavior: A Framework for Faithfully Characterizing Foundation Models’ Human-like Behavior Mechanisms
Enyu Zhou | Rui Zheng | Zhiheng Xi | Songyang Gao | Xiaoran Fan | Zichu Fei | Jingting Ye | Tao Gui | Qi Zhang | Xuanjing Huang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Reports of human-like behaviors in foundation models are growing, with psychological theories providing enduring tools to investigate these behaviors. However, current research tends to directly apply these human-oriented tools without verifying the faithfulness of their outcomes. In this paper, we introduce a framework, RealBehavior, which is designed to characterize the humanoid behaviors of models faithfully. Beyond simply measuring behaviors, our framework assesses the faithfulness of results based on reproducibility, internal and external consistency, and generalizability. Our findings suggest that a simple application of psychological tools cannot faithfully characterize all human-like behaviors. Moreover, we discuss the impacts of aligning models with human and social values, arguing for the necessity of diversifying alignment objectives to prevent the creation of models with restricted characteristics.

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Self-Polish: Enhance Reasoning in Large Language Models via Problem Refinement
Zhiheng Xi | Senjie Jin | Yuhao Zhou | Rui Zheng | Songyang Gao | Jia Liu | Tao Gui | Qi Zhang | Xuanjing Huang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

To enhance the multi-step reasoning capabilities of large language models, researchers have extensively explored prompting methods, notably the Chain-of-Thought (CoT) method which explicitly elicits human-like rationales. However, they have inadvertently overlooked the potential of enhancing model reasoning performance by formulating higher-quality problems. In this work, we start from the problem side and propose Self-Polish (SP), a novel method that facilitates the model’s reasoning by guiding it to progressively refine the given problems to be more comprehensible and solvable. We also explore several automatic prompting varients and propose the Self-Polish prompt bank for the community. SP is orthogonal to all other prompting methods of answer/reasoning side like CoT, allowing for seamless integration with state-of-the-art techniques for further improvement. Thorough experiments show that the proposed method attains notable and consistent effectiveness on five reasoning benchmarks across different models. Furthermore, our method also showcases impressive performance on robustness evaluation. Codes and prompts are available at

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DSRM: Boost Textual Adversarial Training with Distribution Shift Risk Minimization
SongYang Gao | Shihan Dou | Yan Liu | Xiao Wang | Qi Zhang | Zhongyu Wei | Jin Ma | Ying Shan
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Adversarial training is one of the best-performing methods in improving the robustness of deep language models. However, robust models come at the cost of high time consumption, as they require multi-step gradient ascents or word substitutions to obtain adversarial samples. In addition, these generated samples are deficient in grammatical quality and semantic consistency, which impairs the effectiveness of adversarial training. To address these problems, we introduce a novel, effective procedure for instead adversarial training with only clean data. Our procedure, distribution shift risk minimization (DSRM), estimates the adversarial loss by perturbing the input data’s probability distribution rather than their embeddings. This formulation results in a robust model that minimizes the expected global loss under adversarial attacks. Our approach requires zero adversarial samples for training and reduces time consumption by up to 70% compared to current best-performing adversarial training methods. Experiments demonstrate that DSRM considerably improves BERT’s resistance to textual adversarial attacks and achieves state-of-the-art robust accuracy on various benchmarks.


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Kernel-Whitening: Overcome Dataset Bias with Isotropic Sentence Embedding
SongYang Gao | Shihan Dou | Qi Zhang | Xuanjing Huang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Dataset bias has attracted increasing attention recently for its detrimental effect on the generalization ability of fine-tuned models. The current mainstream solution is designing an additional shallow model to pre-identify biased instances. However, such two-stage methods scale up the computational complexity of training process and obstruct valid feature information while mitigating bias.To address this issue, we utilize the representation normalization method which aims at disentangling the correlations between features of encoded sentences. We find it also promising in eliminating the bias problem by providing isotropic data distribution. We further propose Kernel-Whitening, a Nystrom kernel approximation method to achieve more thorough debiasing on nonlinear spurious correlations. Our framework is end-to-end with similar time consumption to fine-tuning. Experiments show that Kernel-Whitening significantly improves the performance of BERT on out-of-distribution datasets while maintaining in-distribution accuracy.

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Decorrelate Irrelevant, Purify Relevant: Overcome Textual Spurious Correlations from a Feature Perspective
Shihan Dou | Rui Zheng | Ting Wu | SongYang Gao | Junjie Shan | Qi Zhang | Yueming Wu | Xuanjing Huang
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Natural language understanding (NLU) models tend to rely on spurious correlations (i.e., dataset bias) to achieve high performance on in-distribution datasets but poor performance on out-of-distribution ones. Most of the existing debiasing methods often identify and weaken these samples with biased features (i.e., superficial surface features that cause such spurious correlations). However, down-weighting these samples obstructs the model in learning from the non-biased parts of these samples. To tackle this challenge, in this paper, we propose to eliminate spurious correlations in a fine-grained manner from a feature space perspective. Specifically, we introduce Random Fourier Features and weighted re-sampling to decorrelate the dependencies between features to mitigate spurious correlations. After obtaining decorrelated features, we further design a mutual-information-based method to purify them, which forces the model to learn features that are more relevant to tasks. Extensive experiments on two well-studied NLU tasks demonstrate that our method is superior to other comparative approaches.