Why attention is not explanation: Surgical intervention and causal reasoning about neural models

Christopher Grimsley, Elijah Mayfield, Julia R.S. Bursten

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

As the demand for explainable deep learning grows in the evaluation of language technologies, the value of a principled grounding for those explanations grows as well. Here we study the state-of-the-art in explanation for neural models for NLP tasks from the viewpoint of philosophy of science. We focus on recent evaluation work that finds brittleness in explanations obtained through attention mechanisms. We harness philosophical accounts of explanation to suggest broader conclusions from these studies. From this analysis, we assert the impossibility of causal explanations from attention layers over text data. We then introduce NLP researchers to contemporary philosophy of science theories that allow robust yet non-causal reasoning in explanation, giving computer scientists a vocabulary for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLREC 2020 - 12th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, Conference Proceedings
EditorsNicoletta Calzolari, Frederic Bechet, Philippe Blache, Khalid Choukri, Christopher Cieri, Thierry Declerck, Sara Goggi, Hitoshi Isahara, Bente Maegaard, Joseph Mariani, Helene Mazo, Asuncion Moreno, Jan Odijk, Stelios Piperidis
Pages1780-1790
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9791095546344
StatePublished - 2020
Event12th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, LREC 2020 - Marseille, France
Duration: May 11 2020May 16 2020

Publication series

NameLREC 2020 - 12th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, Conference Proceedings

Conference

Conference12th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, LREC 2020
Country/TerritoryFrance
CityMarseille
Period5/11/205/16/20

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© European Language Resources Association (ELRA), licensed under CC-BY-NC

Keywords

  • Attention mechanisms
  • Causal reasoning
  • Explainability
  • Philosophy of science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Linguistics and Language

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