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Evaluating Webcam-based Gaze Data as an Alternative for Human Rationale Annotations

Stephanie Brandl
Oliver Eberle
Tiago Ribeiro
Anders S√łgaard
Nora Hollenstein

February 29, 2024

Rationales in the form of manually annotated input spans usually serve as ground truth when evaluating explainability methods in NLP. They are, however, time-consuming and often biased by the annotation process. In this paper, we debate whether human gaze, in the form of webcam-based eye-tracking recordings, poses a valid alternative when evaluating importance scores. We evaluate the additional information provided by gaze data, such as total reading times, gaze entropy, and decoding accuracy with respect to human rationale annotations. We compare WebQAmGaze, a multilingual dataset for information-seeking QA, with attention and explainability-based importance scores for 4 different multilingual Transformer-based language models (mBERT, distil-mBERT, XLMR, and XLMR-L) and 3 languages (English, Spanish, and German). Our pipeline can easily be applied to other tasks and languages. Our findings suggest that gaze data offers valuable linguistic insights that could be leveraged to infer task difficulty and further show a comparable ranking of explainability methods to that of human rationales.

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