Keywords: Counting, Generalization, Dyck-1, LSTM, GRU, ReLU
TL;DR: LSTM and ReLU cells are capable of unbounded counting in principle but we find that when trained for Dyck-1 sequences with backpropagation, they fail at longer sequences and we investigate the limitations of their generalization.
Abstract: In this study, we investigate the generalization of LSTM, ReLU and GRU models on counting tasks over long sequences. Previous theoretical work has established that RNNs with ReLU activation and LSTMs have the capacity for counting with suitable configuration, while GRUs have limitations that prevent correct counting over longer sequences. Despite this and some positive empirical results for LSTMs on Dyck-1 languages, our experimental results show that LSTMs fail to learn correct counting behavior for sequences that are significantly longer than in the training data. ReLUs show much larger variance in behavior and in most cases worse generalization. The long sequence generalization is empirically related to validation loss, but reliable long sequence generalization seems not practically achievable through backpropagation with current techniques. We demonstrate different failure modes for LSTMs, GRUs and ReLUs. In particular, we observe that the saturation of activation functions in LSTMs and the correct weight setting for ReLUs to generalize counting behavior are not achieved in standard training regimens. In summary, learning generalizable counting behavior is still an open problem and we discuss potential approaches for further research.
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