The Sensitivity of Language Models and Humans to Winograd Schema Perturbations

Mostafa Abdou, Vinit Ravishankar, Maria Barrett, Yonatan Belinkov, Desmond Elliott, Anders Søgaard

Large-scale pretrained language models are the major driving force behind recent improvements in performance on the Winograd Schema Challenge, a widely employed test of common sense reasoning ability. We show, however, with a new diagnostic dataset, that these models are sensitive to linguistic perturbations of the Winograd examples that minimally affect human understanding. Our results highlight interesting differences between humans and language models: language models are more sensitive to a number or gender alternations and synonym replacements than humans, and humans are more stable and consistent in their predictions, maintain a much higher absolute performance, and perform better on non-associative instances than associative ones. Overall, humans are correct more often than out-of-the-box models, and the models are sometimes right for the wrong reasons. Finally, we show that fine-tuning on a large, task-specific dataset can offer a solution to these issues.

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