Weiyan Shi


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Refine and Imitate: Reducing Repetition and Inconsistency in Persuasion Dialogues via Reinforcement Learning and Human Demonstration
Weiyan Shi | Yu Li | Saurav Sahay | Zhou Yu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Persuasion dialogue system reflects the machine’s ability to make strategic moves beyond verbal communication, and therefore differentiates itself from task-oriented or open-domain dialogues and has its own unique values. However, the repetition and inconsistency problems still persist in dialogue response generation and could substantially impact user experience and impede the persuasion outcome. Besides, although reinforcement learning (RL) approaches have achieved big success in strategic tasks such as games, it requires a sophisticated user simulator to provide real-time feedback to the dialogue system, which limits the application of RL on persuasion dialogues. To address these issues towards a better persuasion dialogue system, we apply RL to refine a language model baseline without user simulators, and distill sentence-level information about repetition, inconsistency, and task relevance through rewards. Moreover, to better accomplish the persuasion task, the model learns from human demonstration to imitate human persuasion behavior and selects the most persuasive responses. Experiments show that our model outperforms previous state-of-the-art dialogue models on both automatic metrics and human evaluation results on a donation persuasion task, and generates more diverse, consistent and persuasive conversations according to the user feedback. We will make the code and model publicly available.

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PRAL: A Tailored Pre-Training Model for Task-Oriented Dialog Generation
Jing Gu | Qingyang Wu | Chongruo Wu | Weiyan Shi | Zhou Yu
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)

Large pre-trained language generation models such as GPT-2 have demonstrated their effectiveness as language priors by reaching state-of-the-art results in various language generation tasks. However, the performance of pre-trained models on task-oriented dialog tasks is still under-explored. We propose a Pre-trainedRole Alternating Language model (PRAL), explicitly designed for task-oriented conversational systems. We design several techniques: start position randomization, knowledge distillation, and history discount to improve pre-training performance. In addition, we introduce a high-quality large-scale task-oriented dialog pre-training dataset by post-prossessing13 dialog datasets. We effectively adapt PRALon three downstream tasks. The results show that PRAL outperforms or is on par with state-of-the-art models.

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LEGOEval: An Open-Source Toolkit for Dialogue System Evaluation via Crowdsourcing
Yu Li | Josh Arnold | Feifan Yan | Weiyan Shi | Zhou Yu
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

We present LEGOEval, an open-source toolkit that enables researchers to easily evaluate dialogue systems in a few lines of code using the online crowdsource platform, Amazon Mechanical Turk. Compared to existing toolkits, LEGOEval features a flexible task design by providing a Python API that maps to commonly used React.js interface components. Researchers can personalize their evaluation procedures easily with our built-in pages as if playing with LEGO blocks. Thus, LEGOEval provides a fast, consistent method for reproducing human evaluation results. Besides the flexible task design, LEGOEval also offers an easy API to review collected data.


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Structured Attention for Unsupervised Dialogue Structure Induction
Liang Qiu | Yizhou Zhao | Weiyan Shi | Yuan Liang | Feng Shi | Tao Yuan | Zhou Yu | Song-Chun Zhu
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Inducing a meaningful structural representation from one or a set of dialogues is a crucial but challenging task in computational linguistics. Advancement made in this area is critical for dialogue system design and discourse analysis. It can also be extended to solve grammatical inference. In this work, we propose to incorporate structured attention layers into a Variational Recurrent Neural Network (VRNN) model with discrete latent states to learn dialogue structure in an unsupervised fashion. Compared to a vanilla VRNN, structured attention enables a model to focus on different parts of the source sentence embeddings while enforcing a structural inductive bias. Experiments show that on two-party dialogue datasets, VRNN with structured attention learns semantic structures that are similar to templates used to generate this dialogue corpus. While on multi-party dialogue datasets, our model learns an interactive structure demonstrating its capability of distinguishing speakers or addresses, automatically disentangling dialogues without explicit human annotation.

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INSPIRED: Toward Sociable Recommendation Dialog Systems
Shirley Anugrah Hayati | Dongyeop Kang | Qingxiaoyang Zhu | Weiyan Shi | Zhou Yu
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

In recommendation dialogs, humans commonly disclose their preference and make recommendations in a friendly manner. However, this is a challenge when developing a sociable recommendation dialog system, due to the lack of dialog dataset annotated with such sociable strategies. Therefore, we present INSPIRED, a new dataset of 1,001 human-human dialogs for movie recommendation with measures for successful recommendations. To better understand how humans make recommendations in communication, we design an annotation scheme related to recommendation strategies based on social science theories and annotate these dialogs. Our analysis shows that sociable recommendation strategies, such as sharing personal opinions or communicating with encouragement, more frequently lead to successful recommendations. Based on our dataset, we train end-to-end recommendation dialog systems with and without our strategy labels. In both automatic and human evaluation, our model with strategy incorporation outperforms the baseline model. This work is a first step for building sociable recommendation dialog systems with a basis of social science theories.

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Understanding User Resistance Strategies in Persuasive Conversations
Youzhi Tian | Weiyan Shi | Chen Li | Zhou Yu
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Persuasive dialog systems have various usages, such as donation persuasion and physical exercise persuasion. Previous persuasive dialog systems research mostly focused on analyzing the persuader’s strategies and paid little attention to the persuadee (user). However, understanding and addressing users’ resistance strategies is an essential job of a persuasive dialog system. So, we adopt a preliminary framework on persuasion resistance in psychology and design a fine-grained resistance strategy annotation scheme. We annotate the PersuasionForGood dataset with the scheme. With the enriched annotations, we build a classifier to predict the resistance strategies. Furthermore, we analyze the relationships between persuasion strategies and persuasion resistance strategies. Our work lays the ground for developing a persuasive dialogue system that can understand and address user resistance strategy appropriately. The code and data will be released.


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Unsupervised Dialog Structure Learning
Weiyan Shi | Tiancheng Zhao | Zhou Yu
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)

Learning a shared dialog structure from a set of task-oriented dialogs is an important challenge in computational linguistics. The learned dialog structure can shed light on how to analyze human dialogs, and more importantly contribute to the design and evaluation of dialog systems. We propose to extract dialog structures using a modified VRNN model with discrete latent vectors. Different from existing HMM-based models, our model is based on variational-autoencoder (VAE). Such model is able to capture more dynamics in dialogs beyond the surface forms of the language. We find that qualitatively, our method extracts meaningful dialog structure, and quantitatively, outperforms previous models on the ability to predict unseen data. We further evaluate the model’s effectiveness in a downstream task, the dialog system building task. Experiments show that, by integrating the learned dialog structure into the reward function design, the model converges faster and to a better outcome in a reinforcement learning setting.

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Persuasion for Good: Towards a Personalized Persuasive Dialogue System for Social Good
Xuewei Wang | Weiyan Shi | Richard Kim | Yoojung Oh | Sijia Yang | Jingwen Zhang | Zhou Yu
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Developing intelligent persuasive conversational agents to change people’s opinions and actions for social good is the frontier in advancing the ethical development of automated dialogue systems. To do so, the first step is to understand the intricate organization of strategic disclosures and appeals employed in human persuasion conversations. We designed an online persuasion task where one participant was asked to persuade the other to donate to a specific charity. We collected a large dataset with 1,017 dialogues and annotated emerging persuasion strategies from a subset. Based on the annotation, we built a baseline classifier with context information and sentence-level features to predict the 10 persuasion strategies used in the corpus. Furthermore, to develop an understanding of personalized persuasion processes, we analyzed the relationships between individuals’ demographic and psychological backgrounds including personality, morality, value systems, and their willingness for donation. Then, we analyzed which types of persuasion strategies led to a greater amount of donation depending on the individuals’ personal backgrounds. This work lays the ground for developing a personalized persuasive dialogue system.

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How to Build User Simulators to Train RL-based Dialog Systems
Weiyan Shi | Kun Qian | Xuewei Wang | Zhou Yu
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

User simulators are essential for training reinforcement learning (RL) based dialog models. The performance of the simulator directly impacts the RL policy. However, building a good user simulator that models real user behaviors is challenging. We propose a method of standardizing user simulator building that can be used by the community to compare dialog system quality using the same set of user simulators fairly. We present implementations of six user simulators trained with different dialog planning and generation methods. We then calculate a set of automatic metrics to evaluate the quality of these simulators both directly and indirectly. We also ask human users to assess the simulators directly and indirectly by rating the simulated dialogs and interacting with the trained systems. This paper presents a comprehensive evaluation framework for user simulator study and provides a better understanding of the pros and cons of different user simulators, as well as their impacts on the trained systems.


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Sentiment Adaptive End-to-End Dialog Systems
Weiyan Shi | Zhou Yu
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

End-to-end learning framework is useful for building dialog systems for its simplicity in training and efficiency in model updating. However, current end-to-end approaches only consider user semantic inputs in learning and under-utilize other user information. Therefore, we propose to include user sentiment obtained through multimodal information (acoustic, dialogic and textual), in the end-to-end learning framework to make systems more user-adaptive and effective. We incorporated user sentiment information in both supervised and reinforcement learning settings. In both settings, adding sentiment information reduced the dialog length and improved the task success rate on a bus information search task. This work is the first attempt to incorporate multimodal user information in the adaptive end-to-end dialog system training framework and attained state-of-the-art performance.

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Exploiting Common Characters in Chinese and Japanese to Learn Cross-Lingual Word Embeddings via Matrix Factorization
Jilei Wang | Shiying Luo | Weiyan Shi | Tao Dai | Shu-Tao Xia
Proceedings of The Third Workshop on Representation Learning for NLP

Learning vector space representation of words (i.e., word embeddings) has recently attracted wide research interests, and has been extended to cross-lingual scenario. Currently most cross-lingual word embedding learning models are based on sentence alignment, which inevitably introduces much noise. In this paper, we show in Chinese and Japanese, the acquisition of semantic relation among words can benefit from the large number of common characters shared by both languages; inspired by this unique feature, we design a method named CJC targeting to generate cross-lingual context of words. We combine CJC with GloVe based on matrix factorization, and then propose an integrated model named CJ-Glo. Taking two sentence-aligned models and CJ-BOC (also exploits common characters but is based on CBOW) as baseline algorithms, we compare them with CJ-Glo on a series of NLP tasks including cross-lingual synonym, word analogy and sentence alignment. The result indicates CJ-Glo achieves the best performance among these methods, and is more stable in cross-lingual tasks; moreover, compared with CJ-BOC, CJ-Glo is less sensitive to the alteration of parameters.