Steuer, Julius; Mosbach, Marius; Klakow, Dietrich

Large GPT-like Models are Bad Babies: A Closer Look at the Relationship between Linguistic Competence and Psycholinguistic Measures

Warstadt, Alex; Mueller, Aaron; Choshen, Leshem; Wilcox, Ethan; Zhuang, Chengxu; Ciro, Juan; Rafael, Mosquera; Paranjabe, Bhargavi; Williams, Adina; Linzen, Tal; Cotterell, Ryan (Ed.): Proceedings of the BabyLM Challenge at the 27th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning, Association for Computational Linguistics, pp. 142-157, Singapore, 2023.

Research on the cognitive plausibility of language models (LMs) has so far mostly concentrated on modelling psycholinguistic response variables such as reading times, gaze durations and N400/P600 EEG signals, while mostly leaving out the dimension of what Mahowald et al. (2023) described as formal and functional linguistic competence, and developmental plausibility. We address this gap by training a series of GPT-like language models of different sizes on the strict version of the BabyLM pretraining corpus, evaluating on the challenge tasks (BLiMP, GLUE, MSGS) and an additional reading time prediction task. We find a positive correlation between LM size and performance on all three challenge tasks, with different preferences for model width and depth in each of the tasks. In contrast, a negative correlation was found between LM size and reading time fit of linear mixed-effects models using LM surprisal as a predictor, with the second-smallest LM achieving the largest log-likelihood reduction over a baseline model without surprisal. This suggests that modelling processing effort and linguistic competence may require an approach different from training GPT-like LMs on a developmentally plausible corpus.