Humans are the final decision makers in critical tasks that involve ethical and legal concerns, ranging from recidivism prediction, to medical diagnosis, to fighting against fake news. Although machine learning models can sometimes achieve impressive performance in these tasks, these tasks are not amenable to full automation. To realize the potential of machine learning for improving human decisions, it is important to understand how assistance from machine learning models affects human performance and human agency. In this paper, we use deception detection as a testbed and investigate how we can harness explanations and predictions of machine learning models to improve human performance while retaining human agency. We propose a spectrum between full human agency and full automation, and develop varying levels of machine assistance along the spectrum that gradually increase the influence of machine predictions. We find that without showing predicted labels, explanations alone do not statistically significantly improve human performance in the end task. In comparison, human performance is greatly improved by showing predicted labels (>20% relative improvement) and can be further improved by explicitly suggesting strong machine performance. Interestingly, when predicted labels are shown, explanations of machine predictions induce a similar level of accuracy as an explicit statement of strong machine performance. Our results demonstrate a tradeoff between human performance and human agency and show that explanations of machine predictions can moderate this tradeoff. Click to Read Paper
In meetings where important decisions get made, what items receive more attention may influence the outcome. We examine how different types of rhetorical (de-)emphasis -- including hedges, superlatives, and contrastive conjunctions -- correlate with what gets revisited later, controlling for item frequency and speaker. Our data consists of transcripts of recurring meetings of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee (FOMC), where important aspects of U.S. monetary policy are decided on. Surprisingly, we find that words appearing in the context of hedging, which is usually considered a way to express uncertainty, are more likely to be repeated in subsequent meetings, while strong emphasis indicated by superlatives has a slightly negative effect on word recurrence in subsequent meetings. We also observe interesting patterns in how these effects vary depending on social factors such as status and gender of the speaker. For instance, the positive effects of hedging are more pronounced for female speakers than for male speakers. Click to Read Paper
Although analyzing user behavior within individual communities is an active and rich research domain, people usually interact with multiple communities both on- and off-line. How do users act in such multi-community environments? Although there are a host of intriguing aspects to this question, it has received much less attention in the research community in comparison to the intra-community case. In this paper, we examine three aspects of multi-community engagement: the sequence of communities that users post to, the language that users employ in those communities, and the feedback that users receive, using longitudinal posting behavior on Reddit as our main data source, and DBLP for auxiliary experiments. We also demonstrate the effectiveness of features drawn from these aspects in predicting users' future level of activity. One might expect that a user's trajectory mimics the "settling-down" process in real life: an initial exploration of sub-communities before settling down into a few niches. However, we find that the users in our data continually post in new communities; moreover, as time goes on, they post increasingly evenly among a more diverse set of smaller communities. Interestingly, it seems that users that eventually leave the community are "destined" to do so from the very beginning, in the sense of showing significantly different "wandering" patterns very early on in their trajectories; this finding has potentially important design implications for community maintainers. Our multi-community perspective also allows us to investigate the "situation vs. personality" debate from language usage across different communities. Click to Read Paper
The strength with which a statement is made can have a significant impact on the audience. For example, international relations can be strained by how the media in one country describes an event in another; and papers can be rejected because they overstate or understate their findings. It is thus important to understand the effects of statement strength. A first step is to be able to distinguish between strong and weak statements. However, even this problem is understudied, partly due to a lack of data. Since strength is inherently relative, revisions of texts that make claims are a natural source of data on strength differences. In this paper, we introduce a corpus of sentence-level revisions from academic writing. We also describe insights gained from our annotation efforts for this task. Click to Read Paper
Most real-world document collections involve various types of metadata, such as author, source, and date, and yet the most commonly-used approaches to modeling text corpora ignore this information. While specialized models have been developed for particular applications, few are widely used in practice, as customization typically requires derivation of a custom inference algorithm. In this paper, we build on recent advances in variational inference methods and propose a general neural framework, based on topic models, to enable flexible incorporation of metadata and allow for rapid exploration of alternative models. Our approach achieves strong performance, with a manageable tradeoff between perplexity, coherence, and sparsity. Finally, we demonstrate the potential of our framework through an exploration of a corpus of articles about US immigration. Click to Read Paper
Political speeches and debates play an important role in shaping the images of politicians, and the public often relies on media outlets to select bits of political communication from a large pool of utterances. It is an important research question to understand what factors impact this selection process. To quantitatively explore the selection process, we build a three- decade dataset of presidential debate transcripts and post-debate coverage. We first examine the effect of wording and propose a binary classification framework that controls for both the speaker and the debate situation. We find that crowdworkers can only achieve an accuracy of 60% in this task, indicating that media choices are not entirely obvious. Our classifiers outperform crowdworkers on average, mainly in primary debates. We also compare important factors from crowdworkers' free-form explanations with those from data-driven methods and find interesting differences. Few crowdworkers mentioned that "context matters", whereas our data show that well-quoted sentences are more distinct from the previous utterance by the same speaker than less-quoted sentences. Finally, we examine the aggregate effect of media preferences towards different wordings to understand the extent of fragmentation among media outlets. By analyzing a bipartite graph built from quoting behavior in our data, we observe a decreasing trend in bipartisan coverage. Click to Read Paper
Understanding how ideas relate to each other is a fundamental question in many domains, ranging from intellectual history to public communication. Because ideas are naturally embedded in texts, we propose the first framework to systematically characterize the relations between ideas based on their occurrence in a corpus of documents, independent of how these ideas are represented. Combining two statistics --- cooccurrence within documents and prevalence correlation over time --- our approach reveals a number of different ways in which ideas can cooperate and compete. For instance, two ideas can closely track each other's prevalence over time, and yet rarely cooccur, almost like a "cold war" scenario. We observe that pairwise cooccurrence and prevalence correlation exhibit different distributions. We further demonstrate that our approach is able to uncover intriguing relations between ideas through in-depth case studies on news articles and research papers. Click to Read Paper
Consider a person trying to spread an important message on a social network. He/she can spend hours trying to craft the message. Does it actually matter? While there has been extensive prior work looking into predicting popularity of social-media content, the effect of wording per se has rarely been studied since it is often confounded with the popularity of the author and the topic. To control for these confounding factors, we take advantage of the surprising fact that there are many pairs of tweets containing the same url and written by the same user but employing different wording. Given such pairs, we ask: which version attracts more retweets? This turns out to be a more difficult task than predicting popular topics. Still, humans can answer this question better than chance (but far from perfectly), and the computational methods we develop can do better than both an average human and a strong competing method trained on non-controlled data. Click to Read Paper
Understanding a long document requires tracking how entities are introduced and evolve over time. We present a new type of language model, EntityNLM, that can explicitly model entities, dynamically update their representations, and contextually generate their mentions. Our model is generative and flexible; it can model an arbitrary number of entities in context while generating each entity mention at an arbitrary length. In addition, it can be used for several different tasks such as language modeling, coreference resolution, and entity prediction. Experimental results with all these tasks demonstrate that our model consistently outperforms strong baselines and prior work. Click to Read Paper
Changing someone's opinion is arguably one of the most important challenges of social interaction. The underlying process proves difficult to study: it is hard to know how someone's opinions are formed and whether and how someone's views shift. Fortunately, ChangeMyView, an active community on Reddit, provides a platform where users present their own opinions and reasoning, invite others to contest them, and acknowledge when the ensuing discussions change their original views. In this work, we study these interactions to understand the mechanisms behind persuasion. We find that persuasive arguments are characterized by interesting patterns of interaction dynamics, such as participant entry-order and degree of back-and-forth exchange. Furthermore, by comparing similar counterarguments to the same opinion, we show that language factors play an essential role. In particular, the interplay between the language of the opinion holder and that of the counterargument provides highly predictive cues of persuasiveness. Finally, since even in this favorable setting people may not be persuaded, we investigate the problem of determining whether someone's opinion is susceptible to being changed at all. For this more difficult task, we show that stylistic choices in how the opinion is expressed carry predictive power. Click to Read Paper
While recurrent neural networks have found success in a variety of natural language processing applications, they are general models of sequential data. We investigate how the properties of natural language data affect an LSTM's ability to learn a nonlinguistic task: recalling elements from its input. We find that models trained on natural language data are able to recall tokens from much longer sequences than models trained on non-language sequential data. Furthermore, we show that the LSTM learns to solve the memorization task by explicitly using a subset of its neurons to count timesteps in the input. We hypothesize that the patterns and structure in natural language data enable LSTMs to learn by providing approximate ways of reducing loss, but understanding the effect of different training data on the learnability of LSTMs remains an open question. Click to Read Paper
Understanding the ways in which participants in public discussions frame their arguments is important in understanding how public opinion is formed. In this paper, we adopt the position that it is time for more computationally-oriented research on problems involving framing. In the interests of furthering that goal, we propose the following specific, interesting and, we believe, relatively accessible question: In the controversy regarding the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture, do pro- and anti-GMO articles differ in whether they choose to adopt a "scientific" tone? Prior work on the rhetoric and sociology of science suggests that hedging may distinguish popular-science text from text written by professional scientists for their colleagues. We propose a detailed approach to studying whether hedge detection can be used to understanding scientific framing in the GMO debates, and provide corpora to facilitate this study. Some of our preliminary analyses suggest that hedges occur less frequently in scientific discourse than in popular text, a finding that contradicts prior assertions in the literature. We hope that our initial work and data will encourage others to pursue this promising line of inquiry. Click to Read Paper
We show that information about social relationships can be used to improve user-level sentiment analysis. The main motivation behind our approach is that users that are somehow "connected" may be more likely to hold similar opinions; therefore, relationship information can complement what we can extract about a user's viewpoints from their utterances. Employing Twitter as a source for our experimental data, and working within a semi-supervised framework, we propose models that are induced either from the Twitter follower/followee network or from the network in Twitter formed by users referring to each other using "@" mentions. Our transductive learning results reveal that incorporating social-network information can indeed lead to statistically significant sentiment-classification improvements over the performance of an approach based on Support Vector Machines having access only to textual features. Click to Read Paper
We present a question answering system over DBpedia, filling the gap between user information needs expressed in natural language and a structured query interface expressed in SPARQL over the underlying knowledge base (KB). Given the KB, our goal is to comprehend a natural language query and provide corresponding accurate answers. Focusing on solving the non-aggregation questions, in this paper, we construct a subgraph of the knowledge base from the detected entities and propose a graph traversal method to solve both the semantic item mapping problem and the disambiguation problem in a joint way. Compared with existing work, we simplify the process of query intention understanding and pay more attention to the answer path ranking. We evaluate our method on a non-aggregation question dataset and further on a complete dataset. Experimental results show that our method achieves best performance compared with several state-of-the-art systems. Click to Read Paper
In the machine learning problems, the performance measure is used to evaluate the machine learning models. Recently, the number positive data points ranked at the top positions (Pos@Top) has been a popular performance measure in the machine learning community. In this paper, we propose to learn a convolutional neural network (CNN) model to maximize the Pos@Top performance measure. The CNN model is used to represent the multi-instance data point, and a classifier function is used to predict the label from the its CNN representation. We propose to minimize the loss function of Pos@Top over a training set to learn the filters of CNN and the classifier parameter. The classifier parameter vector is solved by the Lagrange multiplier method, and the filters are updated by the gradient descent method alternately in an iterative algorithm. Experiments over benchmark data sets show that the proposed method outperforms the state-of-the-art Pos@Top maximization methods. Click to Read Paper
Large-scale datasets have successively proven their fundamental importance in several research fields, especially for early progress in some emerging topics. In this paper, we focus on the problem of visual speech recognition, also known as lipreading, which has received an increasing interest in recent years. We present a naturally-distributed large-scale benchmark for lip reading in the wild, named LRW-1000, which contains 1000 classes with about 745,187 samples from more than 2000 individual speakers. Each class corresponds to the syllables of a Mandarin word which is composed of one or several Chinese characters. To the best of our knowledge, it is the largest word-level lipreading dataset and also the only public large-scale Mandarin lipreading dataset. This dataset aims at covering a "natural" variability over different speech modes and imaging conditions to incorporate challenges encountered in practical applications. This benchmark shows a large variation over several aspects, including the number of samples in each class, resolution of videos, lighting conditions, and speakers' attributes such as pose, age, gender, and make-up. Besides a detailed description of the dataset and its collection pipeline, we evaluate the popular lipreading methods and perform a thorough analysis of the results from several aspects. The results demonstrate the consistency and challenges of our dataset, which may open up some new promising directions for future work. The dataset and corresponding codes will be public for academic research use. Click to Read Paper