Handling Ambiguity in Emotion: From Out-of-Domain Detection to Distribution Estimation


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The subjective perception of emotion leads to inconsistent labels from human annotators. Typically, utterances lacking majority-agreed labels are excluded when training an emotion classifier, which cause problems when encountering ambiguous emotional expressions during testing. This paper investigates three methods to handle ambiguous emotion. First, we show that incorporating utterances without majority-agreed labels as an additional class in the classifier reduces the classification performance of the other emotion classes. Then, we propose detecting utterances with ambiguous emotions as out-of-domain samples by quantifying the uncertainty in emotion classification using evidential deep learning. This approach retains the classification accuracy while effectively detects ambiguous emotion expressions. Furthermore, to obtain fine-grained distinctions among ambiguous emotions, we propose representing emotion as a distribution instead of a single class label. The task is thus re-framed from classification to distribution estimation where every individual annotation is taken into account, not just the majority opinion. The evidential uncertainty measure is extended to quantify the uncertainty in emotion distribution estimation. Experimental results on the IEMOCAP and CREMA-D datasets demonstrate the superior capability of the proposed method in terms of majority class prediction, emotion distribution estimation, and uncertainty estimation.
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