Focused Hierarchical RNNs for Conditional Sequence Processing
Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 80:2554-2563, 2018.
Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) with attention mechanisms have obtained state-of-the-art results for many sequence processing tasks. Most of these models use a simple form of encoder with attention that looks over the entire sequence and assigns a weight to each token independently. We present a mechanism for focusing RNN encoders for sequence modelling tasks which allows them to attend to key parts of the input as needed. We formulate this using a multi-layer conditional hierarchical sequence encoder that reads in one token at a time and makes a discrete decision on whether the token is relevant to the context or question being asked. The discrete gating mechanism takes in the context embedding and the current hidden state as inputs and controls information flow into the layer above. We train it using policy gradient methods. We evaluate this method on several types of tasks with different attributes. First, we evaluate the method on synthetic tasks which allow us to evaluate the model for its generalization ability and probe the behavior of the gates in more controlled settings. We then evaluate this approach on large scale Question Answering tasks including the challenging MS MARCO and SearchQA tasks. Our models shows consistent improvements for both tasks over prior work and our baselines. It has also shown to generalize significantly better on synthetic tasks as compared to the baselines.