A Systematic Evaluation of Decoding-Free Generative Candidate Selection Methods

Mingyu Derek Ma*, Yanna Ding*, Zijie Huang, Jianxi Gao, Yizhou Sun, Wei Wang (* Equal contribution)
Jun 13, 2024
Generative Language Models rely on autoregressive decoding to produce the output sequence token by token. Some tasks, such as preference optimization, require the model to produce task-level output consisting of multiple tokens directly by selecting candidates from a pool as predictions. Determining a task-level prediction from candidates using the ordinary token-level decoding mechanism is constrained by time-consuming decoding and interrupted gradients by discrete token selection. Existing works have been using decoding-free candidate selection methods to obtain candidate probability from initial output logits over vocabulary. Though these estimation methods are widely used, they are not systematically evaluated, especially on end tasks. We introduce an evaluation of a comprehensive collection of decoding-free candidate selection approaches on a comprehensive set of tasks, including five multiple-choice QA tasks with a small candidate pool and four clinical decision tasks with a massive amount of candidates, some with 10k+ options. We evaluate the estimation methods paired with a wide spectrum of foundation LMs covering different architectures, sizes and training paradigms. The results and insights from our analysis could inform the future model design.