Yaru Hao


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Why Can GPT Learn In-Context? Language Models Secretly Perform Gradient Descent as Meta-Optimizers
Damai Dai | Yutao Sun | Li Dong | Yaru Hao | Shuming Ma | Zhifang Sui | Furu Wei
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Large pretrained language models have shown surprising in-context learning (ICL) ability. With a few demonstration input-label pairs, they can predict the label for an unseen input without parameter updates. Despite the great success in performance, its working mechanism still remains an open question. In this paper, we explain language models as meta-optimizers and understand in-context learning as implicit finetuning. Theoretically, we figure out that Transformer attention has a dual form of gradient descent. On top of it, we understand ICL as follows: GPT first produces meta-gradients according to the demonstration examples, and then these meta-gradients are applied to the original GPT to build an ICL model. We comprehensively compare the behaviors of in-context learning and explicit finetuning on real tasks to provide empirical evidence that supports our understanding. Experimental results show that in-context learning behaves similarly to explicit finetuning from multiple perspectives. Inspired by the dual form between Transformer attention and gradient descent, we design a momentum-based attention by analogy with gradient descent with momentum. The improved performance over vanilla attention further supports our understanding from another perspective, and more importantly, shows the potential to utilize our understanding for future model design. The code is available at https://aka.ms/icl.


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Knowledge Neurons in Pretrained Transformers
Damai Dai | Li Dong | Yaru Hao | Zhifang Sui | Baobao Chang | Furu Wei
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Large-scale pretrained language models are surprisingly good at recalling factual knowledge presented in the training corpus. In this paper, we present preliminary studies on how factual knowledge is stored in pretrained Transformers by introducing the concept of knowledge neurons. Specifically, we examine the fill-in-the-blank cloze task for BERT. Given a relational fact, we propose a knowledge attribution method to identify the neurons that express the fact. We find that the activation of such knowledge neurons is positively correlated to the expression of their corresponding facts. In our case studies, we attempt to leverage knowledge neurons to edit (such as update, and erase) specific factual knowledge without fine-tuning. Our results shed light on understanding the storage of knowledge within pretrained Transformers.


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Learning to Sample Replacements for ELECTRA Pre-Training
Yaru Hao | Li Dong | Hangbo Bao | Ke Xu | Furu Wei
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021


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Investigating Learning Dynamics of BERT Fine-Tuning
Yaru Hao | Li Dong | Furu Wei | Ke Xu
Proceedings of the 1st Conference of the Asia-Pacific Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 10th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing

The recently introduced pre-trained language model BERT advances the state-of-the-art on many NLP tasks through the fine-tuning approach, but few studies investigate how the fine-tuning process improves the model performance on downstream tasks. In this paper, we inspect the learning dynamics of BERT fine-tuning with two indicators. We use JS divergence to detect the change of the attention mode and use SVCCA distance to examine the change to the feature extraction mode during BERT fine-tuning. We conclude that BERT fine-tuning mainly changes the attention mode of the last layers and modifies the feature extraction mode of the intermediate and last layers. Moreover, we analyze the consistency of BERT fine-tuning between different random seeds and different datasets. In summary, we provide a distinctive understanding of the learning dynamics of BERT fine-tuning, which sheds some light on improving the fine-tuning results.


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Visualizing and Understanding the Effectiveness of BERT
Yaru Hao | Li Dong | Furu Wei | Ke Xu
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Language model pre-training, such as BERT, has achieved remarkable results in many NLP tasks. However, it is unclear why the pre-training-then-fine-tuning paradigm can improve performance and generalization capability across different tasks. In this paper, we propose to visualize loss landscapes and optimization trajectories of fine-tuning BERT on specific datasets. First, we find that pre-training reaches a good initial point across downstream tasks, which leads to wider optima and easier optimization compared with training from scratch. We also demonstrate that the fine-tuning procedure is robust to overfitting, even though BERT is highly over-parameterized for downstream tasks. Second, the visualization results indicate that fine-tuning BERT tends to generalize better because of the flat and wide optima, and the consistency between the training loss surface and the generalization error surface. Third, the lower layers of BERT are more invariant during fine-tuning, which suggests that the layers that are close to input learn more transferable representations of language.