Proactive Pseudo-Intervention: Causally Informed Contrastive Learning For Interpretable Vision Models

Dong Wang, Yuewei Yang, Chenyang Tao, Fanjie Kong, Ricardo Henao, Lawrence Carin

Deep neural networks have shown significant promise in comprehending complex visual signals, delivering performance on par or even superior to that of human experts. However, these models often lack a mechanism for interpreting their predictions, and in some cases, particularly when the sample size is small, existing deep learning solutions tend to capture spurious correlations that compromise model generalizability on unseen inputs. In this work, we propose a contrastive causal representation learning strategy that leverages proactive interventions to identify causally-relevant image features, called Proactive Pseudo-Intervention (PPI). This approach is complemented with a causal salience map visualization module, i.e., Weight Back Propagation (WBP), that identifies important pixels in the raw input image, which greatly facilitates the interpretability of predictions. To validate its utility, our model is benchmarked extensively on both standard natural images and challenging medical image datasets. We show this new contrastive causal representation learning model consistently improves model performance relative to competing solutions, particularly for out-of-domain predictions or when dealing with data integration from heterogeneous sources. Further, our causal saliency maps are more succinct and meaningful relative to their non-causal counterparts.

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