Don't Prompt, Search! Mining-based Zero-Shot Learning with Language Models

26 Oct 2022  ·  Mozes van de Kar, Mengzhou Xia, Danqi Chen, Mikel Artetxe ·

Masked language models like BERT can perform text classification in a zero-shot fashion by reformulating downstream tasks as text infilling. However, this approach is highly sensitive to the template used to prompt the model, yet practitioners are blind when designing them in strict zero-shot settings. In this paper, we propose an alternative mining-based approach for zero-shot learning. Instead of prompting language models, we use regular expressions to mine labeled examples from unlabeled corpora, which can optionally be filtered through prompting, and used to finetune a pretrained model. Our method is more flexible and interpretable than prompting, and outperforms it on a wide range of tasks when using comparable templates. Our results suggest that the success of prompting can partly be explained by the model being exposed to similar examples during pretraining, which can be directly retrieved through regular expressions.

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