Concept Activation Regions: A Generalized Framework For Concept-Based Explanations

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Jonathan Crabbé, Mihaela van der Schaar


Concept-based explanations permit to understand the predictions of a deep neural network (DNN) through the lens of concepts specified by users. Existing methods assume that the examples illustrating a concept are mapped in a fixed direction of the DNN's latent space. When this holds true, the concept can be represented by a concept activation vector (CAV) pointing in that direction. In this work, we propose to relax this assumption by allowing concept examples to be scattered across different clusters in the DNN's latent space. Each concept is then represented by a region of the DNN's latent space that includes these clusters and that we call concept activation region (CAR). To formalize this idea, we introduce an extension of the CAV formalism that is based on the kernel trick and support vector classifiers. This CAR formalism yields global concept-based explanations and local concept-based feature importance. We prove that CAR explanations built with radial kernels are invariant under latent space isometries. In this way, CAR assigns the same explanations to latent spaces that have the same geometry. We further demonstrate empirically that CARs offer (1) more accurate descriptions of how concepts are scattered in the DNN's latent space; (2) global explanations that are closer to human concept annotations and (3) concept-based feature importance that meaningfully relate concepts with each other. Finally, we use CARs to show that DNNs can autonomously rediscover known scientific concepts, such as the prostate cancer grading system.