Pairwise Causality Guided Transformers for Event Sequences

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

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Xiao Shou, Debarun Bhattacharjya, Tian Gao, Dharmashankar Subramanian, Oktie Hassanzadeh, Kristin P Bennett


Although pairwise causal relations have been extensively studied in observational longitudinal analyses across many disciplines, incorporating knowledge of causal pairs into deep learning models for temporal event sequences remains largely unexplored. In this paper, we propose a novel approach for enhancing the performance of transformer-based models in multivariate event sequences by injecting pairwise qualitative causal knowledge such as `event Z amplifies future occurrences of event Y'. We establish a new framework for causal inference in temporal event sequences using a transformer architecture, providing a theoretical justification for our approach, and show how to obtain unbiased estimates of the proposed measure. Experimental results demonstrate that our approach outperforms several state-of-the-art models in terms of prediction accuracy by effectively leveraging knowledge about causal pairs. We also consider a unique application where we extract knowledge around sequences of societal events by generating them from a large language model, and demonstrate how a causal knowledge graph can help with event prediction in such sequences. Overall, our framework offers a practical means of improving the performance of transformer-based models in multivariate event sequences by explicitly exploiting pairwise causal information.