We propose a new task for assessing machines’ skills of understanding fictional characters in narrative stories. The task, TVShowGuess, builds on the scripts of TV series and takes the form of guessing the anonymous main characters based on the backgrounds of the scenes and the dialogues. Our human study supports that this form of task covers comprehension of multiple types of character persona, including understanding characters’ personalities, facts and memories of personal experience, which are well aligned with the psychological and literary theories about the theory of mind (ToM) of human beings on understanding fictional characters during reading. We further propose new model architectures to support the contextualized encoding of long scene texts. Experiments show that our proposed approaches significantly outperform baselines, yet still largely lag behind the (nearly perfect) human performance.Our work serves as a first step toward the goal of narrative character comprehension.
Question answering (QA) is a fundamental means to facilitate assessment and training of narrative comprehension skills for both machines and young children, yet there is scarcity of high-quality QA datasets carefully designed to serve this purpose. In particular, existing datasets rarely distinguish fine-grained reading skills, such as the understanding of varying narrative elements. Drawing on the reading education research, we introduce FairytaleQA, a dataset focusing on narrative comprehension of kindergarten to eighth-grade students. Generated by educational experts based on an evidence-based theoretical framework, FairytaleQA consists of 10,580 explicit and implicit questions derived from 278 children-friendly stories, covering seven types of narrative elements or relations. Our dataset is valuable in two folds: First, we ran existing QA models on our dataset and confirmed that this annotation helps assess models’ fine-grained learning skills. Second, the dataset supports question generation (QG) task in the education domain. Through benchmarking with QG models, we show that the QG model trained on FairytaleQA is capable of asking high-quality and more diverse questions.
An NLP model that understands stories should be able to understand the characters in them. To support the development of neural models for this purpose, we construct a benchmark, Story2Personality. The task is to predict a movie character’s MBTI or Big 5 personality types based on the narratives of the character. Experiments show that our task is challenging for the existing text classification models, as none is able to largely outperform random guesses. We further proposed a multi-view model for personality prediction using both verbal and non-verbal descriptions, which gives improvement compared to using only verbal descriptions. The uniqueness and challenges in our dataset call for the development of narrative comprehension techniques from the perspective of understanding characters.