Tx-ray: Quantifying and explaining model-knowledge transfer in (un-) supervised NLP

Nils Rethmeier, Vageesh Saxena, Isabelle Augenstein

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


While state-of-the-art NLP explainability (XAI) methods focus on explaining per-sample decisions in supervised end or probing tasks, this is insufficient to explain and quantify model knowledge transfer during (un-) supervised training. Thus, for TX-Ray, we modify the established computer vision explainability principle of ‘visualizing preferred inputs of neurons’ to make it usable for both NLP and for transfer analysis. This allows one to analyze, track and quantify how self-or supervised NLP models first build knowledge abstractions in pretraining (1), andthen transfer abstractions to a new domain (2), or adapt them during supervised finetuning (3)–see Fig. 1. TX-Ray expresses neurons as feature preference distributions to quantify fine-grained knowledge transfer or adaptation and guide human analysis. We find that, similar to Lottery Ticket based pruning, TX-Ray based pruning can improve test set generalization and that it can reveal how early stages of self-supervision automatically learn linguistic abstractions like parts-of-speech.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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