Counterfactual Explanations for Neural Recommenders

by   Khanh Hiep Tran, et al.

Understanding why specific items are recommended to users can significantly increase their trust and satisfaction in the system. While neural recommenders have become the state-of-the-art in recent years, the complexity of deep models still makes the generation of tangible explanations for end users a challenging problem. Existing methods are usually based on attention distributions over a variety of features, which are still questionable regarding their suitability as explanations, and rather unwieldy to grasp for an end user. Counterfactual explanations based on a small set of the user's own actions have been shown to be an acceptable solution to the tangibility problem. However, current work on such counterfactuals cannot be readily applied to neural models. In this work, we propose ACCENT, the first general framework for finding counterfactual explanations for neural recommenders. It extends recently-proposed influence functions for identifying training points most relevant to a recommendation, from a single to a pair of items, while deducing a counterfactual set in an iterative process. We use ACCENT to generate counterfactual explanations for two popular neural models, Neural Collaborative Filtering (NCF) and Relational Collaborative Filtering (RCF), and demonstrate its feasibility on a sample of the popular MovieLens 100K dataset.


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