NICE: To Optimize In-Context Examples or Not?

CoRR(2024)

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摘要
Recent works have shown that large language models (LLMs) work remarkably well on a wide range of tasks through in-context learning and optimization of in-context examples (ICE). However, most of these studies assume either a fixed or no instruction provided in the prompt, leading to the apparent consensus that the optimization of in-context examples is critical for better performance. We challenge this consensus for instruction-tuned LLMs by investigating the necessity of optimizing in-context examples when task-specific instructions are provided, and find that there are tasks for which various ways of optimizing in-context examples yield diminishing returns. We introduce a task-specific metric called () that quantifies the learnability of tasks from a given instruction, and provides a heuristic that helps decide whether to optimize for instructions or ICE for any new task. On a wide range of tasks and a systematically created instruction set with gradually added details, we validate our hypothesis empirically by computing with query-dependent bins of examples, comparing different instructions with ICE selection methods, and performing label perturbation experiments. We conclude that tasks can be divided into two broad classes based on the metric, where the returns on ICE optimization follow predictable trends when instructions are provided in the prompt.
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