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Meaningfully Explaining a Model's Mistakes
Abubakar Abid · James Zou

Understanding and explaining the mistakes made by trained models is critical to many machine learning objectives, such as improving robustness, addressing concept drift, and mitigating biases. However, this is often an ad hoc process that involves manually looking at the model's mistakes on many test samples and guessing at the underlying reasons for those incorrect predictions. In this paper, we propose a systematic approach, conceptual explanation scores (CES), that explains why a classifier makes a mistake on a particular test sample(s) in terms of human-understandable concepts (e.g. this zebra is misclassified as a dog because of faint stripes). We base CES on two prior ideas: counterfactual explanations and concept activation vectors, and validate our approach on well-known pretrained models, showing that it explains the models' mistakes meaningfully. We also train new models with intentional and known spurious correlations, which CES successfully identifies from a single misclassified test sample. The code for CES is publicly available and can easily be applied to new models.

Author Information

Abubakar Abid (Stanford)
James Zou (Stanford University)

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