On the Lack of Robust Interpretability of Neural Text Classifiers

With the ever-increasing complexity of neural language models, practitioners have turned to methods for understanding the predictions of these models. One of the most well-adopted approaches for model interpretability is feature-based interpretability, i.e., ranking the features in terms of their impact on model predictions. Several prior studies have focused on assessing the fidelity of feature-based interpretability methods, i.e., measuring the impact of dropping the top-ranked features on the model output. However, relatively little work has been conducted on quantifying the robustness of interpretations. In this work, we assess the robustness of interpretations of neural text classifiers, specifically, those based on pretrained Transformer encoders, using two randomization tests. The first compares the interpretations of two models that are identical except for their initializations. The second measures whether the interpretations differ between a model with trained parameters and a model with random parameters. Both tests show surprising deviations from expected behavior, raising questions about the extent of insights that practitioners may draw from interpretations.

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