skip to main content

Title: Attentive History Selection for Conversational Question Answering
Conversational AI is a rapidly developing research field in both industry and academia. As one of the major branches of conversational AI, question answering and conversational search has attracted significant attention of researchers in the information retrieval community. It has been a long overdue feature for search engines or conversational assistants to retrieve information iteratively and interactively in a conversational manner. Previous work argues that conversational question answering (ConvQA) is a simplified but concrete setting of conversational search. In this setting, one of the major challenges is to leverage the conversation history to understand and answer the current question. In this work, we propose a novel solution for ConvQA that involves three aspects. First, we propose a positional history answer embedding method to encode conversation history with position information using BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) in a natural way. BERT is a powerful technique for text representation. Second, we design a history attention mechanism (HAM) to conduct a "soft selection" for conversation histories. This method attends to history turns with different weights based on how helpful they are on answering the current question. Third, in addition to handling conversation history, we take advantage of multi-task learning (MTL) to do more » answer prediction along with another essential conversation task (dialog act prediction) using a uniform model architecture. MTL is able to learn more expressive and generic representations to improve the performance of ConvQA. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our model with extensive experimental evaluations on QuAC, a large-scale ConvQA dataset. We show that position information plays an important role in conversation history modeling. We also visualize the history attention and provide new insights into conversation history understanding. The complete implementation of our model will be open-sourced. « less
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management - CIKM '19
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1391 to 1400
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Conversational search is an emerging topic in the information retrieval community. One of the major challenges to multi-turn conversational search is to model the conversation history to understand the current question. Existing methods either prepend history turns to the current question or use complicated attention mechanisms to model the history. We propose a conceptually simple yet highly effective approach referred to as history answer embedding. It enables seamless integration of conversation history into a conversational question answering (ConvQA) model built on BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). We first explain our view that ConvQA is a simplified but concrete settingmore »of conversational search, and then we provide a general framework to solve ConvQA. We further demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach under this framework. Finally, we analyze the impact of different numbers of history turns under different settings. We show that history prepending methods degrade dramatically when given a long conversation history while our method is robust and shows advantages under such a situation, which provides new insights into conversation history modeling in ConvQA.« less
  2. Users often need to look through multiple search result pages or reformulate queries when they have complex information-seeking needs. Conversational search systems make it possible to improve user satisfaction by asking questions to clarify users’ search intents. This, however, can take significant effort to answer a series of questions starting with “what/why/how”. To quickly identify user intent and reduce effort during interactions, we propose an intent clarification task based on yes/no questions where the system needs to ask the correct question about intents within the fewest conversation turns. In this task, it is essential to use negative feedback about themore »previous questions in the conversation history. To this end, we propose a Maximum-Marginal-Relevance (MMR) based BERT model (MMR-BERT) to leverage negative feedback based on the MMR principle for the next clarifying question selection. Experiments on the Qulac dataset show that MMR-BERT outperforms state-of-the-art baselines significantly on the intent identification task and the selected questions also achieve significantly better performance in the associated document retrieval tasks.« less
  3. Conversational search is one of the ultimate goals of information retrieval. Recent research approaches conversational search by simplified settings of response ranking and conversational question answering, where an answer is either selected from a given candidate set or extracted from a given passage. These simplifications neglect the fundamental role of retrieval in conversational search. To address this limitation, we introduce an open-retrieval conversational question answering (ORConvQA) setting, where we learn to retrieve evidence from a large collection before extracting answers, as a further step towards building functional conversational search systems. We create a dataset, OR-QuAC, to facilitate research on ORConvQA.more »We build an end-to-end system for ORConvQA, featuring a retriever, a reranker, and a reader that are all based on Transformers. Our extensive experiments on OR-QuAC demonstrate that a learnable retriever is crucial for ORConvQA. We further show that our system can make a substantial improvement when we enable history modeling in all system components. Moreover, we show that the reranker component contributes to the model performance by providing a regularization effect. Finally, further in-depth analyses are performed to provide new insights into ORConvQA.« less
  4. Videos convey rich information. Dynamic spatio-temporal relationships between people/objects, and diverse multimodal events are present in a video clip. Hence, it is important to develop automated models that can accurately extract such information from videos. Answering questions on videos is one of the tasks which can evaluate such AI abilities. In this paper, we propose a video question answering model which effectively integrates multi-modal input sources and finds the temporally relevant information to answer questions. Specifically, we first employ dense image captions to help identify objects and their detailed salient regions and actions, and hence give the model useful extramore »information (in explicit textual format to allow easier matching) for answering questions. Moreover, our model is also comprised of dual-level attention (word/object and frame level), multi-head self/cross-integration for different sources (video and dense captions), and gates which pass more relevant information to the classifier. Finally, we also cast the frame selection problem as a multi-label classification task and introduce two loss functions, In-andOut Frame Score Margin (IOFSM) and Balanced Binary Cross-Entropy (BBCE), to better supervise the model with human importance annotations. We evaluate our model on the challenging TVQA dataset, where each of our model components provides significant gains, and our overall model outperforms the state-of-the-art by a large margin (74.09% versus 70.52%). We also present several word, object, and frame level visualization studies.« less
  5. Current textual question answering (QA) models achieve strong performance on in-domain test sets, but often do so by fitting surface-level patterns, so they fail to generalize to out-of-distribution settings. To make a more robust and understandable QA system, we model question answering as an alignment problem. We decompose both the question and context into smaller units based on off-the-shelf semantic representations (here, semantic roles), and align the question to a subgraph of the context in order to find the answer. We formulate our model as a structured SVM, with alignment scores computed via BERT, and we can train end-to-end despitemore »using beam search for approximate inference. Our use of explicit alignments allows us to explore a set of constraints with which we can prohibit certain types of bad model behavior arising in cross-domain settings. Furthermore, by investigating differences in scores across different potential answers, we can seek to understand what particular aspects of the input lead the model to choose the answer without relying on post-hoc explanation techniques. We train our model on SQuAD v1.1 and test it on several adversarial and out-of-domain datasets. The results show that our model is more robust than the standard BERT QA model, and constraints derived from alignment scores allow us to effectively trade off coverage and accuracy.« less