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BaSFormer: A Balanced Sparsity Regularized Attention Network for Transformer
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  • Shuoran Jiang ,
  • Qingcai Chen ,
  • Yang Xiang ,
  • Youcheng Pan
Shuoran Jiang
Harbin Institute of Technology

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Qingcai Chen
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Yang Xiang
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Youcheng Pan
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Attention networks often make decisions relying solely on a few pieces of tokens, even if those reliances are not truly indicative of the underlying meaning or intention of the full context. That can lead to over-fitting in Transformers and hinder their ability to generalize. Attention regularization and sparsity-based methods have been used to overcome this issue. However, these methods cannot guarantee that all tokens have sufficient receptive fields for global information inference. Thus, the impact of individual biases cannot be effectively reduced. As a result, the generalization of these approaches improved slightly from the training data to new data. To address these limitations, we proposed a balanced sparsity (BaS) regularized attention network on top of the Transformers, called BaSFormer. BaS regularization introduces the K-regular graph constraint on self-attention connections, which replaces SoftMax with SparseMax in the attention transformation. In BaS-regularized self-attentions, SparseMax assigns zero attention scores to low-scoring connections, highlighting influential and meaningful contexts. The K-regular graph constraint ensures that all tokens have an equal-sized receptive field to aggregate information, which facilitates the involvement of global tokens in the feature update of each layer and reduces the impact of individual biases. As no continuous loss can be used as the K-regular graph regularization, we proposed an exponential extremum loss with augmented Lagrangian. Experimental results show that BaSFormer improves debiasing effectiveness compared to the newest large language models, such as the chatGPT, GPT-4 and LLaMA. In addition, BaSFormer achieves new state-of-the-art results in text generation tasks. Interestingly, this paper also evaluates that BaSFormer can learn hierarchically linguistic dependencies in gradient attributions, which improves interpretability and adversarial robustness.