Visual Comparison of Language Model Adaptation

Rita Sevastjanova, Eren Cakmak, Shauli Ravfogel, Ryan Cotterell, Mennatallah El-Assady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Neural language models are widely used; however, their model parameters often need to be adapted to the specific domains and tasks of an application, which is time- and resource-consuming. Thus, adapters have recently been introduced as a lightweight alternative for model adaptation. They consist of a small set of task-specific parameters with a reduced training time and simple parameter composition. The simplicity of adapter training and composition comes along with new challenges, such as maintaining an overview of adapter properties and effectively comparing their produced embedding spaces. To help developers overcome these challenges, we provide a twofold contribution. First, in close collaboration with NLP researchers, we conducted a requirement analysis for an approach supporting adapter evaluation and detected, among others, the need for both intrinsic (i.e., embedding similarity-based) and extrinsic (i.e., prediction-based) explanation methods. Second, motivated by the gathered requirements, we designed a flexible visual analytics workspace that enables the comparison of adapter properties. In this paper, we discuss several design iterations and alternatives for interactive, comparative visual explanation methods. Our comparative visualizations show the differences in the adapted embedding vectors and prediction outcomes for diverse human-interpretable concepts (e.g., person names, human qualities). We evaluate our workspace through case studies and show that, for instance, an adapter trained on the language debiasing task according to context-0 (decontextualized) embeddings introduces a new type of bias where words (even gender-independent words such as countries) become more similar to female- than male pronouns. We demonstrate that these are artifacts of context-0 embeddings, and the adapter effectively eliminates the gender information from the contextualized word representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1178-1188
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 IEEE.


  • Adapter
  • Language Model Adaptation
  • Sequence Classification
  • Visual Analytics
  • Word Embeddings


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