ConTextual Masked Auto-Encoder for Dense Passage Retrieval

16 Aug 2022  ·  Xing Wu, Guangyuan Ma, Meng Lin, Zijia Lin, Zhongyuan Wang, Songlin Hu ·

Dense passage retrieval aims to retrieve the relevant passages of a query from a large corpus based on dense representations (i.e., vectors) of the query and the passages. Recent studies have explored improving pre-trained language models to boost dense retrieval performance. This paper proposes CoT-MAE (ConTextual Masked Auto-Encoder), a simple yet effective generative pre-training method for dense passage retrieval. CoT-MAE employs an asymmetric encoder-decoder architecture that learns to compress the sentence semantics into a dense vector through self-supervised and context-supervised masked auto-encoding. Precisely, self-supervised masked auto-encoding learns to model the semantics of the tokens inside a text span, and context-supervised masked auto-encoding learns to model the semantical correlation between the text spans. We conduct experiments on large-scale passage retrieval benchmarks and show considerable improvements over strong baselines, demonstrating the high efficiency of CoT-MAE. Our code is available at

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