Skrjanec, Iza; Broy, Frederik Yannick; Demberg, Vera

Expert-adapted language models improve the fit to reading times

Procedia Computer Science, PsyArXiv, 2023.

The concept of surprisal refers to the predictability of a word based on its context. Surprisal is known to be predictive of human processing difficulty and is usually estimated by language models. However, because humans differ in their linguistic experience, they also differ in the actual processing difficulty they experience with a given word or sentence. We investigate whether models that are similar to the linguistic experience and background knowledge of a specific group of humans are better at predicting their reading times than a generic language model. We analyze reading times from the PoTeC corpus (J├Ąger et al. 2021) of eye movements from biology and physics experts reading biology and physics texts. We find experts read in-domain texts faster than novices, especially domain-specific terms. Next, we train language models adapted to the biology and physics domains and show that surprisal obtained from these specialized models improves the fit to expert reading times above and beyond a generic language model.