CSTS: Conditional Semantic Textual Similarity

Ameet Deshpande, Carlos E. Jimenez,Howard Chen,Vishvak Murahari, Victoria Graf, Tanmay Rajpurohit, Ashwin Kalyan,Danqi Chen,Karthik Narasimhan


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Semantic textual similarity (STS) has been a cornerstone task in NLP that measures the degree of similarity between a pair of sentences, with applications in information retrieval, question answering, and embedding methods. However, it is an inherently ambiguous task, with the sentence similarity depending on the specific aspect of interest. We resolve this ambiguity by proposing a novel task called conditional STS (C-STS) which measures similarity conditioned on an aspect elucidated in natural language (hereon, condition). As an example, the similarity between the sentences "The NBA player shoots a three-pointer." and "A man throws a tennis ball into the air to serve." is higher for the condition "The motion of the ball." (both upward) and lower for "The size of the ball." (one large and one small). C-STS's advantages are two-fold: (1) it reduces the subjectivity and ambiguity of STS, and (2) enables fine-grained similarity evaluation using diverse conditions. C-STS contains almost 20,000 instances from diverse domains and we evaluate several state-of-the-art models to demonstrate that even the most performant fine-tuning and in-context learning models (GPT-4, Flan, SimCSE) find it challenging, with Spearman correlation scores of <50. We encourage the community to evaluate their models on C-STS to provide a more holistic view of semantic similarity and natural language understanding.
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