What went wrong and when? Instance-wise Feature Importance for Time-series Models

03/05/2020 ∙ by Sana Tonekaboni, et al. ∙ 17

Multivariate time series models are poised to be used for decision support in high-stakes applications, such as healthcare. In these contexts, it is important to know which features at which times most influenced a prediction. We demonstrate a general approach for assigning importance to observations in multivariate time series, based on their counterfactual influence on future predictions. Specifically, we define the importance of an observation as the change in the predictive distribution, had the observation not been seen. We integrate over plausible counterfactuals by sampling from the corresponding conditional distributions of generative time series models. We compare our importance metric to gradient-based explanations, attention mechanisms, and other baselines in simulated and clinical ICU data, and show that our approach generates the most precise explanations. Our method is inexpensive, model agnostic, and can be used with arbitrarily complex time series models and predictors.

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