NeurIPS 2023
Conference paper

Locally Invariant Explanations: Towards Stable and Unidirectional Explanations through Local Invariant Learning


Locally interpretable model agnostic explanations (LIME) method is one of the most popular methods used to explain black-box models at a per example level. Although many variants have been proposed few provide a simple way to produce high fidelity explanations that are also stable and intuitive in the neighborhood of the example. In this work, we provide a novel perspective by proposing a model agnostic local explanation method inspired by the invariant risk minimization (IRM) principle -- originally proposed for (global) out-of-distribution generalization -- to provide high fidelity explanations that are robust across neighborhoods and for near by examples. Our method is based on a game theoretic formulation where we theoretically show that our approach has a strong tendency to eliminate features where the gradient of the black-box function abruptly changes sign in the locality of the example we want to explain, while in other cases it is more careful and will choose a more conservative (feature) attribution, a behavior which can be highly desirable for recourse. Empirically, we show on tabular, image and text data that the quality of our explanations with neighborhoods formed using random perturbations are much better than LIME and in some cases even comparable to other methods that use realistic neighbors sampled from the data manifold, where the latter is a popular strategy to obtain high quality explanations. This is a desirable property given that learning a manifold to either create realistic neighbors or to project explanations is typically expensive or may even be impossible. Moreover, our algorithm is simple and efficient to train, and can ascertain stable input features for local decisions of a black-box without access to side information such as a (partial) causal graph as has been seen in some recent works.