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Task-Specific Skill Localization in Fine-tuned Language Models
Abhishek Panigrahi · Nikunj Saunshi · Haoyu Zhao · Sanjeev Arora

Tue Jul 25 05:00 PM -- 06:30 PM (PDT) @ Exhibit Hall 1 #536
Pre-trained language models can be fine-tuned to solve diverse NLP tasks, including in few-shot settings. Thus fine-tuning allows the model to quickly pick up task-specific "skills," but there has been limited study of *where* these newly-learnt skills reside inside the massive model. This paper introduces the term *skill localization* for this problem and proposes a solution. Given the downstream task and a model fine-tuned on that task, a simple optimization is used to identify a very small subset of parameters ($\sim$0.01% of model parameters) responsible for (>95%) of the model's performance, in the sense that *grafting* the fine-tuned values for just this tiny subset onto the pre-trained model gives performance almost as well as the fine-tuned model. While reminiscent of recent works on parameter-efficient fine-tuning, the novel aspects here are that: (i) No further retraining is needed on the subset (unlike, say, with lottery tickets). (ii) Notable improvements are seen over vanilla fine-tuning with respect to calibration of predictions in-distribution (40-90% error reduction) as well as quality of predictions out-of-distribution (OOD). In models trained on multiple tasks, a stronger notion of skill localization is observed, where the sparse regions corresponding to different tasks are almost disjoint, and their overlap (when it happens) is a proxy for task similarity. Experiments suggest that localization via grafting can assist certain forms continual learning.

Author Information

Abhishek Panigrahi (Princeton University)
Nikunj Saunshi (Google Research)
Haoyu Zhao (Princeton University)
Sanjeev Arora (Princeton University)

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