In-Context Ability Transfer for Question Decomposition in Complex QA

V. Viswanathan, A. Anand, Sourangshu Bhattacharya

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleScientificpeer-review


Answering complex questions is a challenging task that requires question decomposition and multistep reasoning for arriving at the solution. While existing supervised and unsupervised approaches are specialized to a certain task and involve training, recently proposed prompt-based approaches offer generalizable solutions to tackle a wide variety of complex question-answering (QA) tasks. However, existing prompt-based approaches that are effective for complex QA tasks involve expensive hand annotations from experts in the form of rationales and are not generalizable to newer complex QA scenarios and tasks. We propose, icat (In-Context Ability Transfer) which induces reasoning capabilities in LLMs without any LLM fine-tuning or manual annotation of in-context samples. We transfer the ability to decompose complex questions to simpler questions or generate step-by-step rationales to LLMs, by careful selection from available data sources of related tasks. We also propose an automated uncertainty-aware exemplar selection approach for selecting examples from transfer data sources. Finally, we conduct large-scale experiments on a variety of complex QA tasks involving numerical reasoning, compositional complex QA, and heterogeneous complex QA which require decomposed reasoning. We show that ICAT convincingly outperforms existing prompt-based solutions without involving any model training, showcasing the benefits of re-using existing abilities.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberarXiv:2310.18371
Publication statusSubmitted - 26 Oct 2023


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