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The Utility of “Even if” Semifactual Explanation to Optimise Positive Outcomes

Eoin Kenny · Weipeng Huang

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1624
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[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Wed 13 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


When users receive either a positive or negative outcome from an automated system, Explainable AI (XAI) has almost exclusively focused on how to mutate negative outcomes into positive ones by crossing a decision boundary using counterfactuals (e.g., "If you earn 2k more, we will accept your loan application"). Here, we instead focus on positive outcomes, and take the novel step of using XAI to optimise them (e.g., "Even if you wish to half your down-payment, we will still accept your loan application"). Explanations such as these that employ "even if..." reasoning, and do not cross a decision boundary, are known as semifactuals. To instantiate semifactuals in this context, we introduce the concept of Gain (i.e., how much a user stands to benefit from the explanation), and consider the first causal formalisation of semifactuals. Tests on benchmark datasets show our algorithms are better at maximising gain compared to prior work, and that causality is important in the process. Most importantly however, a user study supports our main hypothesis by showing people find semifactual explanations more useful than counterfactuals when they receive the positive outcome of a loan acceptance.

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