Structure-(in)dependent interpretation of phrases in humans and LSTMs

Coopmans, C. W., De Hoop, H., Kaushik, K., Hagoort, P., & Martin, A. E. (2021). Structure-(in)dependent interpretation of phrases in humans and LSTMs. In Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics (SCiL 2021) (pp. 459-463).
In this study, we compared the performance of a long short-term memory (LSTM) neural network to the behavior of human participants on a language task that requires hierarchically structured knowledge. We show that humans interpret ambiguous noun phrases, such as second blue ball, in line with their hierarchical constituent structure. LSTMs, instead, only do so after unambiguous training, and they do not systematically generalize to novel items. Overall, the results of our simulations indicate that a model can behave hierarchically without relying on hierarchical constituent structure.
Publication type
Proceedings paper
Publication date
2021

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