Department of Computer Science

Machine Learning Research Group

University of Texas at Austin Artificial Intelligence Lab

Publications: Abduction

Abduction is inference to the best explanation and has applications to diagnosis, plan recognition, natural language understanding, vision, and many other tasks. It is frequently formalized as constructing a set of assumptions that logically imply and therefore "explain" a set of observations. Our work in abduction has focused on efficient logical abduction systems using truth maintenance techniques, applications of abduction to identifying faults in the process of theory refinement, and the induction of knowledge bases suitable for abductive reasoning. Our current research focuses on using statistical relational learning for abductive reasoning.

Below is an extreme example of abduction from Eugene Ionesco's play `Rhinoceros' from the `Theater of the Absurd' school:

All cats die.
Socrates is dead.
Therefore, Socrates is a cat.
  1. Plan Recognition Using Statistical Relational Models
    [Details] [PDF]
    Sindhu Raghavan and Parag Singla and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Sukthankar, G. and Geib, C. and Bui, H.H. and Pynadath, D. and Goldman, R.P., editors, Plan, Activity, and Intent Recognition: Theory and Practice, 57--85, Burlington, MA, 2014. Morgan Kaufmann.
    Plan recognition is the task of predicting an agent's top-level plans based on its observed actions. It is an abductive reasoning task that involves inferring plans that best explain observed actions. Most existing approaches to plan recognition and other abductive reasoning tasks either use first-order logic (or subsets of it) or probabilistic graphical models. While the former cannot handle uncertainty in the data, the latter cannot handle structured representations. To overcome these limitations, we explore the application of statistical relational models that combine the strengths of both first-order logic and probabilistic graphical models to plan recognition. Specifically, we introduce two new approaches to abductive plan recognition using Bayesian Logic Programs (BLPs) and Markov Logic Networks (MLNs). Neither of these formalisms is suited for abductive reasoning because of the deductive nature of the underlying logical inference. In this work, we propose approaches to adapt both these formalisms for abductive plan recognition. We present an extensive evaluation of our approaches on three benchmark datasets on plan recognition, comparing them with existing state-of-the-art methods.
    ML ID: 298
  2. Bayesian Logic Programs for Plan Recognition and Machine Reading
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Sindhu Raghavan
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin, December 2012. 170.
    Several real world tasks involve data that is uncertain and relational in nature. Traditional approaches like first-order logic and probabilistic models either deal with structured data or uncertainty, but not both. To address these limitations, statistical relational learning (SRL), a new area in machine learning integrating both first-order logic and probabilistic graphical models, has emerged in the recent past. The advantage of SRL models is that they can handle both uncertainty and structured/relational data. As a result, they are widely used in domains like social network analysis, biological data analysis, and natural language processing. Bayesian Logic Programs (BLPs), which integrate both first-order logic and Bayesian networks are a powerful SRL formalism developed in the recent past. In this dissertation, we develop approaches using BLPs to solve two real world tasks -- plan recognition and machine reading.

    Plan recognition is the task of predicting an agent's top-level plans based on its observed actions. It is an abductive reasoning task that involves inferring cause from effect. In the first part of the dissertation, we develop an approach to abductive plan recognition using BLPs. Since BLPs employ logical deduction to construct the networks, they cannot be used effectively for abductive plan recognition as is. Therefore, we extend BLPs to use logical abduction to construct Bayesian networks and call the resulting model Bayesian Abductive Logic Programs (BALPs).

    In the second part of the dissertation, we apply BLPs to the task of machine reading, which involves automatic extraction of knowledge from natural language text. Most information extraction (IE) systems identify facts that are explicitly stated in text. However, much of the information conveyed in text must be inferred from what is explicitly stated since easily inferable facts are rarely mentioned. Human readers naturally use common sense knowledge and "read between the lines" to infer such implicit information from the explicitly stated facts. Since IE systems do not have access to common sense knowledge, they cannot perform deeper reasoning to infer implicitly stated facts. Here, we first develop an approach using BLPs to infer implicitly stated facts from natural language text. It involves learning uncertain common sense knowledge in the form of probabilistic first-order rules by mining a large corpus of automatically extracted facts using an existing rule learner. These rules are then used to derive additional facts from extracted information using BLP inference. We then develop an online rule learner that handles the concise, incomplete nature of natural-language text and learns first-order rules from noisy IE extractions. Finally, we develop a novel approach to calculate the weights of the rules using a curated lexical ontology like WordNet.

    Both tasks described above involve inference and learning from partially observed or incomplete data. In plan recognition, the underlying cause or the top-level plan that resulted in the observed actions is not known or observed. Further, only a subset of the executed actions can be observed by the plan recognition system resulting in partially observed data. Similarly, in machine reading, since some information is implicitly stated, they are rarely observed in the data. In this dissertation, we demonstrate the efficacy of BLPs for inference and learning from incomplete data. Experimental comparison on various benchmark data sets on both tasks demonstrate the superior performance of BLPs over state-of-the-art methods.

    ML ID: 280
  3. Abductive Plan Recognition by Extending Bayesian Logic Programs
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Sindhu Raghavan, Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the European Conference on Machine Learning/Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases (ECML-PKDD 2011), 629-644, September 2011.
    Plan recognition is the task of predicting an agent's top-level plans based on its observed actions. It is an abductive reasoning task that involves inferring cause from effect. Most existing approaches to plan recognition use either first-order logic or probabilistic graphical models. While the former can- not handle uncertainty, the latter cannot handle structured representations. In or- der to overcome these limitations, we develop an approach to plan recognition using Bayesian Logic Programs (BLPs), which combine first-order logic and Bayesian networks. Since BLPs employ logical deduction to construct the net- works, they cannot be used effectively for plan recognition. Therefore, we extend BLPs to use logical abduction to construct Bayesian networks and call the result- ing model Bayesian Abductive Logic Programs (BALPs). We learn the parame- ters in BALPs using the Expectation Maximization algorithm adapted for BLPs. Finally, we present an experimental evaluation of BALPs on three benchmark data sets and compare its performance with the state-of-the-art for plan recognition.
    ML ID: 266
  4. Abductive Markov Logic for Plan Recognition
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Parag Singla and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the 25th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-2011), 1069-1075, August 2011.
    Plan recognition is a form of abductive reasoning that involves inferring plans that best explain sets of observed actions. Most existing approaches to plan recognition and other abductive tasks employ either purely logical methods that do not handle uncertainty, or purely probabilistic methods that do not handle structured representations. To overcome these limitations, this paper introduces an approach to abductive reasoning using a first-order probabilistic logic, specifically Markov Logic Networks (MLNs). It introduces several novel techniques for making MLNs efficient and effective for abduction. Experiments on three plan recognition datasets show the benefit of our approach over existing methods.
    ML ID: 263
  5. Extending Bayesian Logic Programs for Plan Recognition and Machine Reading
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Sindhu V. Raghavan
    Technical Report, PhD proposal, Department of Computer Science, The University of Texas at Austin, May 2011.

    Statistical relational learning (SRL) is the area of machine learning that integrates both first-order logic and probabilistic graphical models. The advantage of these formalisms is that they can handle both uncertainty and structured/relational data. As a result, they are widely used in domains like social network analysis, biological data analysis, and natural language processing. Bayesian Logic Programs (BLPs), which integrate both first-order logic and Bayesian networks are a powerful SRL formalism developed in the recent past. In this proposal, we focus on applying BLPs to two real worlds tasks -- plan recognition and machine reading.

    Plan recognition is the task of predicting an agent's top-level plans based on its observed actions. It is an abductive reasoning task that involves inferring cause from effect. In the first part of the proposal, we develop an approach to abductive plan recognition using BLPs. Since BLPs employ logical deduction to construct the networks, they cannot be used effectively for plan recognition as is. Therefore, we extend BLPs to use logical abduction to construct Bayesian networks and call the resulting model Bayesian Abductive Logic Programs (BALPs). Experimental evaluation on three benchmark data sets demonstrate that BALPs outperform the existing state-of-art methods like Markov Logic Networks (MLNs) for plan recognition.

    For future work, we propose to apply BLPs to the task of machine reading, which involves automatic extraction of knowledge from natural language text. Present day information extraction (IE) systems that are trained for machine reading are limited by their ability to extract only factual information that is stated explicitly in the text. We propose to improve the performance of an off-the-shelf IE system by inducing general knowledge rules about the domain using the facts already extracted by the IE system. We then use these rules to infer additional facts using BLPs, thereby improving the recall of the underlying IE system. Here again, the standard inference used in BLPs cannot be used to construct the networks. So, we extend BLPs to perform forward inference on all facts extracted by the IE system and then construct the ground Bayesian networks. We initially use an existing inductive logic programming (ILP) based rule learner to learn the rules. In the longer term, we would like to develop a rule/structure learner that is capable of learning an even better set of first-order rules for BLPs.

    ML ID: 258
  6. Implementing Weighted Abduction in Markov Logic
    [Details] [PDF]
    James Blythe, Jerry R. Hobbs, Pedro Domingos, Rohit J. Kate, Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the International Conference on Computational Semantics, 55--64, Oxford, England, January 2011.
    Abduction is a method for finding the best explanation for observations. Arguably the most advanced approach to abduction, especially for natural language processing, is weighted abduction, which uses logical formulas with costs to guide inference. But it has no clear probabilistic semantics. In this paper we propose an approach that implements weighted abduction in Markov logic, which uses weighted first-order formulas to represent probabilistic knowledge, pointing toward a sound probabilistic semantics for weighted abduction. Application to a series of challenge problems shows the power and coverage of our approach
    ML ID: 254
  7. Bayesian Abductive Logic Programs
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Sindhu Raghavan and Raymond Mooney
    In Proceedings of the AAAI-10 Workshop on Statistical Relational AI (Star-AI 10), 82--87, Atlanta, GA, July 2010.
    In this paper, we introduce Bayesian Abductive Logic Programs (BALPs), a new formalism that integrates Bayesian Logic Programs (BLPs) and Abductive Logic Programming (ALP) for abductive reasoning. Like BLPs, BALPs also combine first-order logic and Bayesian networks. However, unlike BLPs that use logical deduction to construct Bayes nets, BALPs employ logical abduction. As a result, BALPs are more suited for solving problems like plan/activity recognition and diagnosis that require abductive reasoning. First, we present the necessary enhancements to BLPs in order to support logical abduction. Next, we apply BALPs to the task of plan recognition and demonstrate its efficacy on two data sets. We also compare the performance of BALPs with several existing approaches for abduction.
    ML ID: 244
  8. Probabilistic Abduction using Markov Logic Networks
    [Details] [PDF] [Slides]
    Rohit J. Kate and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the IJCAI-09 Workshop on Plan, Activity, and Intent Recognition (PAIR-09), Pasadena, CA, July 2009.
    Abduction is inference to the best explanation of a given set of evidence. It is important for plan or intent recognition systems. Traditional approaches to abductive reasoning have either used first-order logic, which is unable to reason under uncertainty, or Bayesian networks, which can handle uncertainty using probabilities but cannot directly handle an unbounded number of related entities. This paper proposes a new method for probabilistic abductive reasoning that combines the capabilities of first-order logic and graphical models by using Markov logic networks. Experimental results on a plan recognition task demonstrate the effectiveness of this method.
    ML ID: 228
  9. Integrating Abduction and Induction in Machine Learning
    [Details] [PDF]
    Raymond J. Mooney
    In P. A. Flach and A. C. Kakas, editors, Abduction and Induction, 181-191, 2000. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    This article discusses the integration of traditional abductive and inductive reasoning methods in the development of machine learning systems. In particular, it reviews our recent work in two areas: 1) The use of traditional abductive methods to propose revisions during theory refinement, where an existing knowledge base is modified to make it consistent with a set of empirical data; and 2) The use of inductive learning methods to automatically acquire from examples a diagnostic knowledge base used for abductive reasoning. Experimental results on real-world problems are presented to illustrate the capabilities of both of these approaches to integrating the two forms of reasoning.
    ML ID: 97
  10. Integrating Abduction and Induction in Machine Learning
    [Details] [PDF]
    Raymond J. Mooney
    In Working Notes of the IJCAI-97 Workshop on Abduction and Induction in AI, 37--42, Nagoya, Japan, August 1997.
    This paper discusses the integration of traditional abductive and inductive reasoning methods in the development of machine learning systems. In particular, the paper discusses our recent work in two areas: 1) The use of traditional abductive methods to propose revisions during theory refinement, where an existing knowledge base is modified to make it consistent with a set of empirical data; and 2) The use of inductive learning methods to automatically acquire from examples a diagnostic knowledge base used for abductive reasoning.
    ML ID: 79
  11. Inductive Learning For Abductive Diagnosis
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Twelfth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-94), 664-669, Seattle, WA, August 1994.
    A new inductive learning system, LAB (Learning for ABduction), is presented which acquires abductive rules from a set of training examples. The goal is to find a small knowledge base which, when used abductively, diagnoses the training examples correctly and generalizes well to unseen examples. This contrasts with past systems that inductively learn rules that are used deductively. Each training example is associated with potentially multiple categories (disorders), instead of one as with typical learning systems. LAB uses a simple hill-climbing algorithm to efficiently build a rule base for a set-covering abductive system. LAB has been experimentally evaluated and compared to other learning systems and an expert knowledge base in the domain of diagnosing brain damage due to stroke.
    ML ID: 38
  12. Inductive Learning For Abductive Diagnosis
    [Details] [PDF]
    Cynthia A. Thompson
    Masters Thesis, Department of Computer Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, August 1993. 53 pages.
    A new system for learning by induction, called LAB, is presented. LAB (Learning for ABduction) learns abductive rules based on a set of training examples. Our goal is to find a small knowledge base which, when used abductively, diagnoses the training examples correctly, in addition to generalizing well to unseen examples. This is in contrast to past systems, which inductively learn rules which are used deductively. Abduction is particularly well suited to diagnosis, in which we are given a set of symptoms (manifestations) and we want our output to be a set of disorders which explain why the manifestations are present. Each training example is associated with potentially multiple categories, instead of one, which is the case with typical learning systems. Building the knowledge base requires a choice between multiple possibilities, and the number of possibilities grows exponentially with the number of training examples. One method of choosing the best knowledge base is described and implemented. The final system is experimentally evaluated, using data from the domain of diagnosing brain damage due to stroke. It is compared to other learning systems and a knowledge base produced by an expert. The results are promising: the rule base learned is simpler than the expert knowledge base and rules learned by one of the other systems, and the accuracy of the learned rule base in predicting which areas are damaged is better than all the other systems as well as the expert knowledge base.
    ML ID: 28
  13. A General Abductive system with application to plan recognition and diagnosis
    [Details] [PDF]
    Hwee Tou Ng
    PhD Thesis, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, May 1992. 154 pages.
    A diverse set of intelligent activities, including natural language understanding, and scientific theory formation, requires the ability to construct explanations for observed phoenomena. In this thesis, we view explanation as abduction, where an abductive explanation is a consistent set of assumptions which, together with background knowledge, logically entials a set of observations.
    To explore the practical feasibility of such a general abductive approach to explanation, we have successfully built a domain-independent system called ACCEL. In our system, knowledge about a variety of domains in uniformly encoded in first-order Horn-clause axioms. A general-purpose abduction algorithm, AAA, efficiently constructs explanations in the various domians by caching partial explanations to avoid redundant work. Empirical results show that caching of partial explanations can achieve more than an order of magnitude speedup in run time. We have applied our abductive system to two general tasks: plan recognition in text understanding, and diagnosis of medical diseases, logic circuits, and dynamic systems. The results indicate that ACCEL is a general-purpose system capable of plan recognition and diagnosis, yet efficient enough to be of pratical utility.
    In the plan recognition domain, we defined a novel evaluation criterion, called explanatory coherence, and tested ACCEL on 50 short narrative texts. Empirical results demonstrate that coherence is a better evaluation metric than simplicity in the plan recognition domain, and that our system is sufficiently general to be able to handle similar plan recognition problems not known to the system developer in advance.
    In medical diagnosis, we prove that ACCEL computes the same diagnoses as the GSC model of Reggia, and present empirical results demonstrating the efficiency of ACCEL in diagnosing 50 real-world patient cases using a sizable knowledge base with over six hundred symptom-disease rules.
    ACCEL also realizes model-based diagnosis, which concerns inferring faults form first principles given knowledge about the correct structure and behavior of a system. ACCEL has successfully diagnosed logic circuits (a full adder) and dynamic systems (a proportional temperature controller and the water balance system of the human kidney).
    ML ID: 230
  14. Abductive Plan Recognition and Diagnosis: A Comprehensive Empirical Evaluation
    [Details] [PDF]
    Hwee Tou Ng and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, 499--508, Cambridge, MA, October 1992.
    While it has been realized for quite some time within AI that abduction is a general model of explanation for a variety of tasks, there have been no empirical investigations into the practical feasibility of a general, logic-based abductive approach to explanation. In this paper we present extensive empirical results on applying a general abductive system, ACCEL, to moderately complex problems in plan recognition and diagnosis. In plan recognition, ACCEL has been tested on 50 short narrative texts, inferring characters' plans from actions described in a text. In medical diagnosis, ACCEL has diagnosed 50 real-world patient cases involving brain damage due to stroke (previously addressed by set-covering methods). ACCEL also uses abduction to accomplish model-based diagnosis of logic circuits (a full adder) and continuous dynamic systems (a temperature controller and the water balance system of the human kidney). The results indicate that general purpose abduction is an effective and efficient mechanism for solving problems in plan recognition and diagnosis.
    ML ID: 19
  15. Automatic Abduction of Qualitative Models
    [Details] [PDF]
    Bradley L. Richards, Ina Kraan, and Benjamin J. Kuipers
    In Proceedings of the Fifth International Workshop on Qualitative Reasoning about Physical Systems, 295-301, 1992.
    We describe a method of automatically abducing qualitative models from descriptions of behaviors. We generate, from either quantitative or qualitative data, models in the form of qualitative differential equations suitable for use by QSIM. Constraints are generated and filtered both by comparison with the input behaviors and by dimensional analysis. If the user provides complete information on the input behaviors and the dimensions of the input variables, the resulting model is unique, maximally constrainted, and guaranteed to reproduce the input behaviors. If the user provides incomplete information, our method will still generate a model which reproduces the input behaviors, but the model may no longer be unique. Incompleteness can take several forms: missing dimensions, values of variables, or entire variables.
    ML ID: 17
  16. A First-Order Horn-Clause Abductive System and Its Use in Plan Recognition and Diagnosis
    [Details] [PDF]
    Hwee Tou Ng and Raymond J. Mooney
    June 1992. Unpublished Technical Note.
    A diverse set of intelligent activities, including natural language understanding and diagnosis, requires the ability to construct explanations for observed phenomena. In this paper, we view explanation as abduction, where an abductive explanation is a consistent set of assumptions which, together with background knowledge, logically entails a set of observations. We have successfully built a domain-independent system, ACCEL, in which knowledge about a variety of domains is uniformly encoded in first-order Horn-clause axioms. A general-purpose abduction algorithm, AAA, efficiently constructs explanations in the various domains by caching partial explanations to avoid redundant work. Empirical results show that caching of partial explanations can achieve more than an order of magnitude speedup in run time. We have applied our abductive system to two general tasks: plan recognition in text understanding, and diagnosis of medical diseases, logic circuits, and dynamic systems. The results indicate that ACCEL is a general-purpose system capable of plan recognition and diagnosis, yet efficient enough to be of practical utility.
    ML ID: 13
  17. Belief Revision in the Context of Abductive Explanation
    [Details] [PDF]
    Siddarth Subramanian
    Technical Report AI92-179, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, University of Texas, Austin, TX, December 1992.
    This proposal presents an approach to explanation that incorporates the paradigms of belief revision and abduction. We present an algorithm that combines these techniques and a system called BRACE that is a preliminary implementation of this algorithm. We show the applicability of the BRACE approach to a wide range of domains including scientific discovery, device diagnosis and plan recognition. Finally, we describe our proposals for a new implementation, new application domains for our system and extensions to this approach.
    ML ID: 10
  18. An Efficient First-Order Horn-Clause Abduction System Based on the ATMS
    [Details] [PDF]
    Hwee Tou Ng and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Ninth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-91), 494-499, Anaheim, CA, July 1991.
    This paper presents an algorithm for first-order Horn-clause abduction that uses an ATMS to avoid redundant computation. This algorithm is either more efficient or more general than any other previous abduction algorithm. Since computing all minimal abductive explanations is intractable, we also present a heuristic version of the algorithm that uses beam search to compute a subset of the simplest explanations. We present empirical results on a broad range of abduction problems from text understanding, plan recognition, and device diagnosis which demonstrate that our algorithm is at least an order of magnitude faster than an alternative abduction algorithm that does not use an ATMS.
    ML ID: 7
  19. On the Role of Coherence in Abductive Explanation
    [Details] [PDF]
    Hwee Tou Ng and Raymond J. Mooney
    In Proceedings of the Eighth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-90), 337--342, Boston, MA, July 1990.
    Abduction is an important inference process underlying much of human intelligent activities, including text understanding, plan recognition, disease diagnosis, and physical device diagnosis. In this paper, we describe some problems encountered using abduction to understand text, and present some solutions to overcome these problems. The solutions we propose center around the use of a different criterion, called explanatory coherence, as the primary measure to evaluate the quality of an explanation. In addition, explanatory coherence plays an important role in the construction of explanations, both in determining the appropriate level of specificity of a preferred explanation, and in guiding the heuristic search to efficiently compute explanations of sufficiently high quality.
    ML ID: 2