International Journal of Data Science and Analytics

Through the looking glass: evaluating post hoc explanations using transparent models

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Modern machine learning methods allow for complex and in-depth analytics, but the predictive models generated by these methods are often highly complex and lack transparency. Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) methods are used to improve the interpretability of these complex “black box” models, thereby increasing transparency and enabling informed decision-making. However, the inherent fitness of these explainable methods, particularly the faithfulness of explanations to the decision-making processes of the model, can be hard to evaluate. In this work, we examine and evaluate the explanations provided by four XAI methods, using fully transparent “glass box” models trained on tabular data. Our results suggest that the fidelity of explanations is determined by the types of variables used, as well as the linearity of the relationship between variables and model prediction. We find that each XAI method evaluated has its own strengths and weaknesses, determined by the assumptions inherent in the explanation mechanism. Thus, though such methods are model-agnostic, we find significant differences in explanation quality across different technical setups. Given the numerous factors that determine the quality of explanations, including the specific explanation-generation procedures implemented by XAI methods, we suggest that model-agnostic XAI methods may still require expert guidance for implementation.