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Rationale-Inspired Natural Language Explanations with Commonsense

Explainable machine learning models primarily justify predicted labels using either extractive rationales (i.e., subsets of input features) or free-text natural language explanations (NLEs) as abstractive justifications. While NLEs can be more comprehensive than extractive rationales, machine-generated NLEs have been shown to sometimes lack commonsense knowledge. Here, we show that commonsense knowledge can act as a bridge between extractive rationales and NLEs, rendering both types of explanations better. More precisely, we introduce a unified framework, called RExC (Rationale-Inspired Explanations with Commonsense), that (1) extracts rationales as a set of features responsible for machine predictions, (2) expands the extractive rationales using available commonsense resources, and (3) uses the expanded knowledge to generate natural language explanations. Our framework surpasses by a large margin the previous state-of-the-art in generating NLEs across five tasks in both natural language processing and vision-language understanding, with human annotators consistently rating the explanations generated by RExC to be more comprehensive, grounded in commonsense, and overall preferred compared to previous state-of-the-art models. Moreover, our work shows that commonsense-grounded explanations can enhance both task performance and rationales extraction capabilities.


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