Decorrelate Irrelevant, Purify Relevant: Overcome Textual Spurious Correlations from a Feature Perspective

Natural language understanding (NLU) models tend to rely on spurious correlations (i.e., dataset bias) to achieve high performance on in-distribution datasets but poor performance on out-of-distribution ones. Most of the existing debiasing methods often identify and weaken these samples with biased features (i.e., superficial surface features that cause such spurious correlations). However, down-weighting these samples obstructs the model in learning from the non-biased parts of these samples. To tackle this challenge, in this paper, we propose to eliminate spurious correlations in a fine-grained manner from a feature space perspective. Specifically, we introduce Random Fourier Features and weighted re-sampling to decorrelate the dependencies between features to mitigate spurious correlations. After obtaining decorrelated features, we further design a mutual-information-based method to purify them, which forces the model to learn features that are more relevant to tasks. Extensive experiments on two well-studied NLU tasks demonstrate that our method is superior to other comparative approaches.

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