Which Shortcut Solution Do Question Answering Models Prefer to Learn?


  • Kazutoshi Shinoda The University of Tokyo National Institute of Informatics
  • Saku Sugawara National Institute of Informatics
  • Akiko Aizawa The University of Tokyo National Institute of Informatics




SNLP: Question Answering, SNLP: Adversarial Attacks & Robustness, SNLP: Bias, Fairness, Transparency & Privacy, SNLP: Interpretability & Analysis of NLP Models


Question answering (QA) models for reading comprehension tend to exploit spurious correlations in training sets and thus learn shortcut solutions rather than the solutions intended by QA datasets. QA models that have learned shortcut solutions can achieve human-level performance in shortcut examples where shortcuts are valid, but these same behaviors degrade generalization potential on anti-shortcut examples where shortcuts are invalid. Various methods have been proposed to mitigate this problem, but they do not fully take the characteristics of shortcuts themselves into account. We assume that the learnability of shortcuts, i.e., how easy it is to learn a shortcut, is useful to mitigate the problem. Thus, we first examine the learnability of the representative shortcuts on extractive and multiple-choice QA datasets. Behavioral tests using biased training sets reveal that shortcuts that exploit answer positions and word-label correlations are preferentially learned for extractive and multiple-choice QA, respectively. We find that the more learnable a shortcut is, the flatter and deeper the loss landscape is around the shortcut solution in the parameter space. We also find that the availability of the preferred shortcuts tends to make the task easier to perform from an information-theoretic viewpoint. Lastly, we experimentally show that the learnability of shortcuts can be utilized to construct an effective QA training set; the more learnable a shortcut is, the smaller the proportion of anti-shortcut examples required to achieve comparable performance on shortcut and anti-shortcut examples. We claim that the learnability of shortcuts should be considered when designing mitigation methods.




How to Cite

Shinoda, K., Sugawara, S., & Aizawa, A. (2023). Which Shortcut Solution Do Question Answering Models Prefer to Learn?. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 37(11), 13564-13572. https://doi.org/10.1609/aaai.v37i11.26590



AAAI Technical Track on Speech & Natural Language Processing