LRTA: A Transparent Neural-Symbolic Reasoning Framework with Modular Supervision for Visual Question Answering

Weixin Liang, Feiyang Niu, Aishwarya Reganti, Govind Thattai, Gokhan Tur

The predominant approach to visual question answering (VQA) relies on encoding the image and question with a "black-box" neural encoder and decoding a single token as the answer like "yes" or "no". Despite this approach's strong quantitative results, it struggles to come up with intuitive, human-readable forms of justification for the prediction process. To address this insufficiency, we reformulate VQA as a full answer generation task, which requires the model to justify its predictions in natural language. We propose LRTA [Look, Read, Think, Answer], a transparent neural-symbolic reasoning framework for visual question answering that solves the problem step-by-step like humans and provides human-readable form of justification at each step. Specifically, LRTA learns to first convert an image into a scene graph and parse a question into multiple reasoning instructions. It then executes the reasoning instructions one at a time by traversing the scene graph using a recurrent neural-symbolic execution module. Finally, it generates a full answer to the given question with natural language justifications. Our experiments on GQA dataset show that LRTA outperforms the state-of-the-art model by a large margin (43.1% v.s. 28.0%) on the full answer generation task. We also create a perturbed GQA test set by removing linguistic cues (attributes and relations) in the questions for analyzing whether a model is having a smart guess with superficial data correlations. We show that LRTA makes a step towards truly understanding the question while the state-of-the-art model tends to learn superficial correlations from the training data.

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