Pushing the Limits of Rule Reasoning in Transformers through Natural Language Satisfiability


  • Kyle Richardson Allen Institute for AI
  • Ashish Sabharwal Allen Institute for AI




Speech & Natural Language Processing (SNLP)


Investigating the reasoning abilities of transformer models, and discovering new challenging tasks for them, has been a topic of much interest. Recent studies have found these models to be surprisingly strong at performing deductive reasoning over formal logical theories expressed in natural language. A shortcoming of these studies, however, is that they do not take into account that logical theories, when sampled uniformly at random, do not necessarily lead to hard instances. We propose a new methodology for creating challenging algorithmic reasoning datasets that focus on natural language satisfiability (NLSat) problems. The key idea is to draw insights from empirical sampling of hard propositional SAT problems and from complexity-theoretic studies of language. This methodology allows us to distinguish easy from hard instances, and to systematically increase the complexity of existing reasoning benchmarks such as RuleTaker. We find that current transformers, given sufficient training data, are surprisingly robust at solving the resulting NLSat problems of substantially increased difficulty. They also exhibit some degree of scale-invariance—the ability to generalize to problems of larger size and scope. Our results, however, reveal important limitations too: careful sampling of training data is crucial for building models that generalize to larger problems, and transformer models’ limited scale-invariance suggests they are far from learning robust deductive reasoning algorithms.




How to Cite

Richardson, K., & Sabharwal, A. (2022). Pushing the Limits of Rule Reasoning in Transformers through Natural Language Satisfiability. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 36(10), 11209-11219. https://doi.org/10.1609/aaai.v36i10.21371



AAAI Technical Track on Speech and Natural Language Processing