Like a Baby: Visually Situated Neural Language Acquisition

ACL 2019

Abstract: We examine the benefits of visual context in training neural language models to perform next-word prediction. A multi-modal neural architecture is introduced that outperform its equivalent trained on language alone with a 2% decrease in perplexity, even when no visual context is available at test. Fine-tuning the embeddings of a pre-trained state-of-the-art bidirectional language model (BERT) in the language modeling framework yields a 3.5% improvement. The advantage for training with visual context when testing without is robust across different languages (English, German and Spanish) and different models (GRU, LSTM, Delta-RNN, as well as those that use BERT embeddings). Thus, language models perform better when they learn like a baby, i.e, in a multi-modal environment. This finding is compatible with the theory of situated cognition: language is inseparable from its physical context. Authors: Alexander Ororbia, Ankur Mali, Matthew Kelly, David Reitter (The Pennsylvania State University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Google Research)