A Holistic Approach to Unifying Automatic Concept Extraction and Concept Importance Estimation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Thomas FEL, Victor Boutin, Louis Béthune, Remi Cadene, Mazda Moayeri, Léo Andéol, Mathieu Chalvidal, Thomas Serre


In recent years, concept-based approaches have emerged as some of the most promising explainability methods to help us interpret the decisions of Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs). These methods seek to discover intelligible visual ``concepts'' buried within the complex patterns of ANN activations in two key steps: (1) concept extraction followed by (2) importance estimation. While these two steps are shared across methods, they all differ in their specific implementations. Here, we introduce a unifying theoretical framework that recast the first step -- concept extraction problem -- as a special case of dictionary learning, and we formalize the second step -- concept importance estimation -- as a more general form of attribution method.This framework offers several advantages as it allows us: (i) to propose new evaluation metrics for comparing different concept extraction approaches; (ii) to leverage modern attribution methods and evaluation metrics to extend and systematically evaluate state-of-the-art concept-based approaches and importance estimation techniques; (iii) to derive theoretical guarantees regarding the optimality of such methods. We further leverage our framework to try to tackle a crucial question in explainability: how to efficiently identify clusters of data points that are classified based on a similar shared strategy.To illustrate these findings and to highlight the main strategies of a model, we introduce a visual representation called the strategic cluster graph. Finally, we present Lens, a dedicated website that offers a complete compilation of these visualizations for all classes of the ImageNet dataset.