Activation Steering for Robust Type Prediction in CodeLLMs

Francesca Lucchetti and Arjun Guha
, 2024

Contemporary LLMs pretrained on code are capable of succeeding at a wide variety of programming tasks. However, their performance is very sensitive to syntactic features, such as the names of variables and types, the structure of code, and presence of type hints. We contribute an inference-time technique to make CodeLLMs more robust to syntactic distractors that are semantically irrelevant. Our methodology relies on activation steering, which involves editing internal model activations to steer the model towards the correct prediction. We contribute a novel way to construct steering vectors by taking inspiration from mutation testing, which constructs minimal semantics-breaking code edits. In contrast, we construct steering vectors from semantics-preserving code edits. We apply our approach to the task of type prediction for the gradually typed languages Python and TypeScript. This approach corrects up to 90% of type mispredictions. Finally, we show that steering vectors calculated from Python activations reliably correct type mispredictions in TypeScript, and vice versa. This result suggests that LLMs may be learning to transfer knowledge of types across programming languages.

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    title={Activation Steering for Robust Type Prediction in CodeLLMs}, 
    author={Francesca Lucchetti and Arjun Guha},