Will you Find these Shortcuts? A Protocol for Evaluating Faithfulness of Input Salience Methods for Text Classification

Sebastian Ebert
Proceedings of EMNLP 2022 (to appear)


Feature attribution a.k.a. input salience methods which assign an importance score to a feature are abundant but may produce surprisingly different results for the same model on the same input. While differences are expected if disparate definitions of importance are assumed, most methods claim to provide faithful attributions and point at features most relevant for a model's prediction. Existing work on faithfulness evaluation is not conclusive and does not provide a clear answer as to how different methods are to be compared. Focusing on text classification and the model debugging scenario, we propose a protocol for faithfulness evaluation which makes use of partially synthetic data to obtain ground truth for feature importance ranking. Following the protocol, we do an in-depth analysis of four standard salience method classes on a range of datasets and shortcuts for BERT and LSTM models. We demonstrate that some of the most common method configurations provide poor results even for simplest shortcuts while a method judged to be too simplistic works remarkably well for BERT.