Measuring Compositionality in Representation Learning

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Many machine learning algorithms represent input data with vector embeddings or discrete codes. When inputs exhibit compositional structure (e.g. objects built from parts or procedures from subroutines), it is natural to ask whether this compositional structure is reflected in the the inputs’ learned representations. While the assessment of compositionality in languages has received significant attention in linguistics and adjacent fields, the machine learning literature lacks general-purpose tools for producing graded measurements of compositional structure in more general (e.g. vector-valued) representation spaces. We describe a procedure for evaluating compositionality by measuring how well the true representation-producing model can be approximated by a model that explicitly composes a collection of inferred representational primitives. We use the procedure to provide formal and empirical characterizations of compositional structure in a variety of settings, exploring the relationship between compositionality and learning dynamics, human judgments, representational similarity, and generalization.
  • Keywords: compositionality, representation learning, evaluation
  • TL;DR: This paper proposes a simple procedure for evaluating compositional structure in learned representations, and uses the procedure to explore the role of compositionality in four learning problems.
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