GStarX: Explaining Graph Neural Networks with Structure-Aware Cooperative Games

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Shichang Zhang, Yozen Liu, Neil Shah, Yizhou Sun


Explaining machine learning models is an important and increasingly popular area of research interest. The Shapley value from game theory has been proposed as a prime approach to compute feature importance towards model predictions on images, text, tabular data, and recently graph neural networks (GNNs) on graphs. In this work, we revisit the appropriateness of the Shapley value for GNN explanation, where the task is to identify the most important subgraph and constituent nodes for GNN predictions. We claim that the Shapley value is a non-ideal choice for graph data because it is by definition not structure-aware. We propose a Graph Structure-aware eXplanation (GStarX) method to leverage the critical graph structure information to improve the explanation. Specifically, we define a scoring function based on a new structure-aware value from the cooperative game theory proposed by Hamiache and Navarro (HN). When used to score node importance, the HN value utilizes graph structures to attribute cooperation surplus between neighbor nodes, resembling message passing in GNNs, so that node importance scores reflect not only the node feature importance, but also the node structural roles. We demonstrate that GStarX produces qualitatively more intuitive explanations, and quantitatively improves explanation fidelity over strong baselines on chemical graph property prediction and text graph sentiment classification. Code: