Interpreting Dense Retrieval as Mixture of Topics

27 Nov 2021  ·  Jingtao Zhan, Jiaxin Mao, Yiqun Liu, Jiafeng Guo, Min Zhang, Shaoping Ma ·

Dense Retrieval (DR) reaches state-of-the-art results in first-stage retrieval, but little is known about the mechanisms that contribute to its success. Therefore, in this work, we conduct an interpretation study of recently proposed DR models. Specifically, we first discretize the embeddings output by the document and query encoders. Based on the discrete representations, we analyze the attribution of input tokens. Both qualitative and quantitative experiments are carried out on public test collections. Results suggest that DR models pay attention to different aspects of input and extract various high-level topic representations. Therefore, we can regard the representations learned by DR models as a mixture of high-level topics.

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