Exploring the Whole Rashomon Set of Sparse Decision Trees

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Rui Xin, Chudi Zhong, Zhi Chen, Takuya Takagi, Margo Seltzer, Cynthia Rudin


In any given machine learning problem, there may be many models that could explain the data almost equally well. However, most learning algorithms return only one of these models, leaving practitioners with no practical way to explore alternative models that might have desirable properties beyond what could be expressed within a loss function. The Rashomon set is the set of these all almost-optimal models. Rashomon sets can be extremely complicated, particularly for highly nonlinear function classes that allow complex interaction terms, such as decision trees. We provide the first technique for completely enumerating the Rashomon set for sparse decision trees; in fact, our work provides the first complete enumeration of any Rashomon set for a non-trivial problem with a highly nonlinear discrete function class. This allows the user an unprecedented level of control over model choice among all models that are approximately equally good. We represent the Rashomon set in a specialized data structure that supports efficient querying and sampling. We show three applications of the Rashomon set: 1) it can be used to study variable importance for the set of almost-optimal trees (as opposed to a single tree), 2) the Rashomon set for accuracy enables enumeration of the Rashomon sets for balanced accuracy and F1-score, and 3) the Rashomon set for a full dataset can be used to produce Rashomon sets constructed with only subsets of the data set. Thus, we are able to examine Rashomon sets across problems with a new lens, enabling users to choose models rather than be at the mercy of an algorithm that produces only a single model.