Compositional Exemplars for In-context Learning

11 Feb 2023  ·  Jiacheng Ye, Zhiyong Wu, Jiangtao Feng, Tao Yu, Lingpeng Kong ·

Large pretrained language models (LMs) have shown impressive In-Context Learning (ICL) ability, where the model learns to do an unseen task via a prompt consisting of input-output examples as the demonstration, without any parameter updates. The performance of ICL is highly dominated by the quality of the selected in-context examples. However, previous selection methods are mostly based on simple heuristics, leading to sub-optimal performance. In this work, we formulate in-context example selection as a subset selection problem. We propose CEIL (Compositional Exemplars for In-context Learning), which is instantiated by Determinantal Point Processes (DPPs) to model the interaction between the given input and in-context examples, and optimized through a carefully-designed contrastive learning objective to obtain preference from LMs. We validate CEIL on 12 classification and generation datasets from 7 distinct NLP tasks, including sentiment analysis, paraphrase detection, natural language inference, commonsense reasoning, open-domain question answering, code generation, and semantic parsing. Extensive experiments demonstrate not only the state-of-the-art performance but also the transferability and compositionality of CEIL, shedding new light on effective and efficient in-context learning. Our code is released at

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