Multi-Vector Retrieval as Sparse AlignmentDownload PDF


22 Sept 2022, 12:37 (modified: 19 Nov 2022, 08:38)ICLR 2023 Conference Blind SubmissionReaders: Everyone
Keywords: natural language processing, document retrieval, information retrieval
TL;DR: We propose a novel multi-vector retrieval model with pairwise alignment and unary salience.
Abstract: Multi-vector retrieval models improve over single-vector dual encoders on many information retrieval tasks. In this paper, we cast the multi-vector retrieval problem as sparse alignment between query and document tokens. We propose ALIGNER, a novel multi-vector retrieval model that learns sparsified pairwise alignments between query and document tokens (e.g. `dog' vs. `puppy') and per-token unary saliences reflecting their relative importance for retrieval. We show that controlling the sparsity of pairwise token alignments often brings significant performance gains. While most factoid questions focusing on a specific part of a document require a smaller number of alignments, others requiring a broader understanding of a document favor a larger number of alignments. Unary saliences, on the other hand, decide whether a token ever needs to be aligned with others for retrieval (e.g. `kind' from `what kind of currency is used in new zealand'). With sparsified unary saliences, we are able to prune a large number of query and document token vectors and improve the efficiency of multi-vector retrieval. We learn the sparse unary saliences with entropy-regularized linear programming, which outperforms other methods to achieve sparsity. In a zero-shot setting, ALIGNER scores 51.1 nDCG@10, achieving a new retriever-only state-of-the-art on 13 tasks in the BEIR benchmark. In addition, adapting pairwise alignments with a few examples (<= 8) further improves the performance up to 15.7 points nDCG@10 for argument retrieval tasks. The unary saliences of ALIGNER helps us to keep only 20% of the document token representations with minimal performance loss. We further show that our model often produces interpretable alignments and significantly improves its performance when initialized from larger language models.
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