Google Research

Scaling Symbolic Methods using Gradients for Neural Model Explanation

International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR) (2021)


Symbolic techniques based on Satisfiability Modulo Theory (SMT) solvers have been proposed for analyzing and verifying neural network properties, but their usage has been fairly limited owing to their poor scalability with larger networks. In this work, we propose a technique for combining gradient-based methods with symbolic techniques to scale such analyses and demonstrate its application for model explanation. In particular, we apply this technique to identify minimal regions in an input that are most relevant for a neural network's prediction. Our approach uses gradient information (based on Integrated Gradients) to focus on a subset of neurons in the first layer, which allows our technique to scale to large networks. The corresponding SMT constraints encode the minimal input mask discovery problem such that after masking the input, the activations of the selected neurons are still above a threshold. After solving for the minimal masks, our approach scores the mask regions to generate a relative ordering of the features within the mask. This produces a saliency map which explains "where a model is looking" when making a prediction. We evaluate our technique on three datasets - MNIST, ImageNet, and Beer Reviews, and demonstrate both quantitatively and qualitatively that the regions generated by our approach are sparser and achieve higher saliency scores compared to the gradient-based methods alone.

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