Comparing Gated and Simple Recurrent Neural Network Architectures as Models of Human Sentence Processing

AbstractThe Simple Recurrent Network (SRN) has a long tradition in cognitive models of language processing. More recently, gated recurrent networks have been proposed that often outperform the SRN on natural language processing tasks. Here, we investigate whether two types of gated networks perform better as cognitive models of sentence reading than SRNs, beyond their advantage as language models. This will reveal whether the filtering mechanism implemented in gated networks corresponds to an aspect of human sentence processing. We train a series of language models differing only in the cell types of their recurrent layers. We then compute word surprisal values for stimuli used in self-paced reading, eye-tracking, and electroencephalography experiments, and quantify the surprisal values’ fit to experimental measures that indicate human sentence reading effort. While the gated networks provide better language models, they do not outperform their SRN counterpart as cognitive models when language model quality is equal across network types. Our results suggest that the different architectures are equally valid as models of human sentence processing.

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