Inductive Biases and Variable Creation in Self-Attention Mechanisms


Self-attention, an architectural motif designed to model long-range interactions in sequential data, has driven numerous recent breakthroughs in natural language processing and beyond. This work provides a theoretical analysis of the inductive biases of self-attention modules, where our focus is to rigorously establish which functions and long-range dependencies self-attention blocks prefer to represent. Our main result shows that bounded-norm Transformer layers create sparse variables: they can represent sparse functions of the input sequence, with sample complexity scaling only logarithmically with the context length. Furthermore, we propose new experimental protocols to support this analysis and to guide the practice of training Transformers, built around the large body of work on provably learning sparse Boolean functions.

International Conference on Machine Learning 2022
Surbhi Goel
Surbhi Goel
Assistant Professor