LEACE: Perfect linear concept erasure in closed form

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

Bibtex Paper


Nora Belrose, David Schneider-Joseph, Shauli Ravfogel, Ryan Cotterell, Edward Raff, Stella Biderman


Concept erasure aims to remove specified features from a representation. It can improve fairness (e.g. preventing a classifier from using gender or race) and interpretability (e.g. removing a concept to observe changes in model behavior). We introduce LEAst-squares Concept Erasure (LEACE), a closed-form method which provably prevents all linear classifiers from detecting a concept while changing the representation as little as possible, as measured by a broad class of norms. We apply LEACE to large language models with a novel procedure called concept scrubbing, which erases target concept information from every layer in the network. We demonstrate our method on two tasks: measuring the reliance of language models on part-of-speech information, and reducing gender bias in BERT embeddings. Our code is available at https://github.com/EleutherAI/concept-erasure.