Zaid Khan is a former research intern in the Media Analytics department of NEC Laboratories America, Inc. while studying at Northeastern University.


Exploring Question Decomposition for Zero-Shot VQA

Visual question answering (VQA) has traditionally been treated as a single-step task where each question receives the same amount of effort, unlike natural human question-answering strategies. We explore a question decomposition strategy for VQA to overcome this limitation. We probe the ability of recently developed large vision-language models to use human-written decompositions and produce their own decompositions of visual questions, finding they are capable of learning both tasks from demonstrations alone. However, we show that naive application of model-written decompositions can hurt performance. We introduce a model-driven selective decomposition approach for second-guessing predictions and correcting errors, and validate its effectiveness on eight VQA tasks across three domains, showing consistent improvements in accuracy, including improvements of >20% on medical VQA datasets and boosting the zero-shot performance of BLIP-2 above chance on a VQA reformulation of the challenging Winoground task. Project Site:

Q: How to Specialize Large Vision-Language Models to Data-Scarce VQA Tasks? A: Self-Train on Unlabeled Images!

Finetuning a large vision language model (VLM) on a target dataset after large scale pretraining is a dominant paradigm in visual question answering (VQA). Datasets for specialized tasks such as knowledge-based VQA or VQA in non natural-image domains are orders of magnitude smaller than those for general-purpose VQA. While collecting additional labels for specialized tasks or domains can be challenging, unlabeled images are often available. We introduce SelTDA (Self-Taught Data Augmentation), a strategy for finetuning large VLMs on small-scale VQA datasets. SelTDA uses the VLM and target dataset to build a teacher model that can generate question-answer pseudolabels directly conditioned on an image alone, allowing us to pseudolabel unlabeled images. SelTDA then finetunes the initial VLM on the original dataset augmented with freshly pseudolabeled images. We describe a series of experiments showing that our self-taught data augmentation increases robustness to adversarially searched questions, counterfactual examples, and rephrasings, it improves domain generalization, and results in greater retention of numerical reasoning skills. The proposed strategy requires no additional annotations or architectural modifications, and is compatible with any modern encoder-decoder multimodal transformer. Code available at

Single-Stream Multi-level Alignment for Vision-Language Pretraining

Self-supervised vision-language pretraining from pure images and text with a contrastive loss is effective, but ignores fine-grained alignment due to a dual-stream architecture that aligns image and text representations only on a global level. Earlier, supervised, non-contrastive methods were capable of finer-grained alignment, but required dense annotations that were not scalable. We propose a single stream architecture that aligns images and language at multiple levels: global, fine-grained patch-token, and conceptual/semantic, using two novel tasks: symmetric cross-modality reconstruction (XMM) and a pseudo-labeled key word prediction (PSL). In XMM, we mask input tokens from one modality and use cross-modal information to reconstruct the masked token, thus improving fine-grained alignment between the two modalities. In PSL, we use attention to select keywords in a caption, use a momentum encoder to recommend other important keywords that are missing from the caption but represented in the image, and then train the visual encoder to predict the presence of those keywords, helping it learn semantic concepts that are essential for grounding a textual token to an image region. We demonstrate competitive performance and improved data efficiency on image-text retrieval, grounding, visual question answering/reasoning against larger models and models trained on more data. Code and models available at