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What Makes Better Augmentation Strategies? Augment Difficult but Not too Different

Jaehyung Kim · Dongyeop Kang · Sungsoo Ahn · Jinwoo Shin

Keywords: [ nlp ] [ data augmentation ] [ text classification ]


The practice of data augmentation has been extensively used to boost the performance of deep neural networks for various NLP tasks. It is more effective when only a limited number of labeled samples is available, e.g., low-data or class-imbalanced regimes. Most current augmentation techniques rely on parameter tuning or inherent randomness; hence, their effectiveness largely varies on the tasks. To efficiently find the best augmentation strategy for each task, learning data augmentation policy is a promising solution, but the question of what makes a good augmentation in NLP tasks and how to design the reward function for learning a good policy remains under-explored. To answer this, we hypothesize that good data augmentation should construct more diverse and challenging samples for providing informative training signals, while avoiding the risk of losing the semantics of original samples. Therefore, we design a novel reward function for updating the augmentation policy to construct difficult but not too different samples (DND). Particularly, we jointly optimize a data augmentation policy while training the model, to construct the augmented samples with low confidence but a high semantic similarity with original ones. In addition, we introduce a sample re-weighting scheme to focus on difficult augmented samples after the original ones are learned confidently for more effective learning from the augmented ones. Our learning-based augmentation outperforms the recent state-of-the-art augmentation schemes on various text classification tasks and GLUE benchmark by successfully discovering the effective augmentations for each task. Remarkably, our method is more effective on the challenging low-data and class-imbalanced regimes, and the learned augmentation policy is well-transferable to the different tasks and models.

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