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Understanding Unfairness via Training Concept Influence
Yuanshun Yao · Yang Liu

Knowing the causes of a model's unfairness helps practitioners better understand their data and algorithms. This is an important yet relatively unexplored task. We look into this problem through the lens of the training data - one of the major sources of unfairness. We ask the following questions: how would a model's fairness performance change if, in its training data, some samples (1) were collected from a different (e.g. demographic) group, (2) were labeled differently, or (3) some features were changed? In other words, we quantify the fairness influence of training samples by counterfactually intervening and changing samples based on predefined concepts, i.e. data attributes such as features (X), labels (Y), or sensitive attributes (A). To calculate a training sample's influence on the model's unfairness w.r.t a concept, we first generate counterfactual samples based on the concept, i.e. the counterfactual versions of the sample if the concept were changed. We then calculate the resulting impact on the unfairness, via influence function, if the counterfactual samples were used in training. Our framework not only helps practitioners understand the observed unfairness and repair their training data, but also leads to many other applications, e.g. detecting mislabeling, fixing imbalanced representations, and detecting fairness-targeted poisoning attacks.

Author Information

Yuanshun Yao (ByteDance AI Lab)
Yang Liu (UC Santa Cruz/ByteDance Research)

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