Attention is not not explanation

Sarah Wiegreffe, Yuval Pinter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

Attention mechanisms play a central role in NLP systems, especially within recurrent neural network (RNN) models. Recently, there has been increasing interest in whether or not the intermediate representations offered by these modules may be used to explain the reasoning for a model's prediction, and consequently reach insights regarding the model's decision-making process. A recent paper claims that 'Attention is not Explanation' (Jain and Wallace, 2019). We challenge many of the assumptions underlying this work, arguing that such a claim depends on one's definition of explanation, and that testing it needs to take into account all elements of the model. We propose four alternative tests to determine when/whether attention can be used as explanation: a simple uniform-weights baseline; a variance calibration based on multiple random seed runs; a diagnostic framework using frozen weights from pretrained models; and an end-to-end adversarial attention training protocol. Each allows for meaningful interpretation of attention mechanisms in RNN models. We show that even when reliable adversarial distributions can be found, they don't perform well on the simple diagnostic, indicating that prior work does not disprove the usefulness of attention mechanisms for explainability.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationEMNLP-IJCNLP 2019 - 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing, Proceedings of the Conference
Pages11-20
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781950737901
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing, EMNLP-IJCNLP 2019 - Hong Kong, China
Duration: 3 Nov 20197 Nov 2019

Publication series

NameEMNLP-IJCNLP 2019 - 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing, Proceedings of the Conference

Conference

Conference2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing, EMNLP-IJCNLP 2019
Country/TerritoryChina
CityHong Kong
Period3/11/197/11/19

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems

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