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Toward the Understanding of Deep Text Matching Models for Information Retrieval

by   Lijuan Chen, et al.

Semantic text matching is a critical problem in information retrieval. Recently, deep learning techniques have been widely used in this area and obtained significant performance improvements. However, most models are black boxes and it is hard to understand what happened in the matching process, due to the poor interpretability of deep learning. This paper aims at tackling this problem. The key idea is to test whether existing deep text matching methods satisfy some fundamental heuristics in information retrieval. Specifically, four heuristics are used in our study, i.e., term frequency constraint, term discrimination constraint, length normalization constraints, and TF-length constraint. Since deep matching models usually contain many parameters, it is difficult to conduct a theoretical study for these complicated functions. In this paper, We propose an empirical testing method. Specifically, We first construct some queries and documents to make them satisfy the assumption in a constraint, and then test to which extend a deep text matching model trained on the original dataset satisfies the corresponding constraint. Besides, a famous attribution based interpretation method, namely integrated gradient, is adopted to conduct detailed analysis and guide for feasible improvement. Experimental results on LETOR 4.0 and MS Marco show that all the investigated deep text matching methods, both representation and interaction based methods, satisfy the above constraints with high probabilities in statistics. We further extend these constraints to the semantic settings, which are shown to be better satisfied for all the deep text matching models. These empirical findings give clear understandings on why deep text matching models usually perform well in information retrieval. We believe the proposed evaluation methodology will be useful for testing future deep text matching models.


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