Divide and Conquer: Answering Questions With Object Factorization and Compositional Reasoning

Shi Chen · Qi Zhao

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 249


Humans have the innate capability to answer diverse questions, which is rooted in the natural ability to correlate different concepts based on their semantic relationships and decompose difficult problems into sub-tasks. On the contrary, existing visual reasoning methods assume training samples that capture every possible object and reasoning problem, and rely on black-boxed models that commonly exploit statistical priors. They have yet to develop the capability to address novel objects or spurious biases in real-world scenarios, and also fall short of interpreting the rationales behind their decisions. Inspired by humans’ reasoning of the visual world, we tackle the aforementioned challenges from a compositional perspective, and propose an integral framework consisting of a principled object factorization method and a novel neural module network. Our factorization method decomposes objects based on their key characteristics, and automatically derives prototypes that represent a wide range of objects. With these prototypes encoding important semantics, the proposed network then correlates objects by measuring their similarity on a common semantic space and makes decisions with a compositional reasoning process. It is capable of answering questions with diverse objects regardless of their availability during training, and overcoming the issues of biased question-answer distributions. In addition to the enhanced generalizability, our framework also provides an interpretable interface for understanding the decision-making process of models. Our code is available at

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