There has been a surge of interest regarding the alignment of large-scale language models with human language comprehension behaviour. The majority of this research investigates comprehension behaviours from reading isolated, written sentences. We propose studying the perception of dialogue, focusing on an intrinsic form of language use: spoken conversations. Using the task of predicting upcoming dialogue turns, we ask whether turn plausibility scores produced by state-of-the-art language models correlate with human judgements. We find a strong correlation for some but not all models: masked language models produce stronger correlations than auto-regressive models. In doing so, we quantify human performance on the response selection task for open-domain spoken conversation. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first such quantification.We find that response selection performance can be used as a coarse proxy for the strength of correlation with human judgements, however humans and models make different response selection mistakes. The model which produces the strongest correlation also outperforms human response selection performance. Through ablation studies, we show that pre-trained language models provide a useful basis for turn representations; however, fine-grained contextualisation, inclusion of dialogue structure information, and fine-tuning towards response selection all boost response selection accuracy by over 30 absolute points.
In EACL 2023; Dubrovnik, Croatia