Provider-side Interpretability with Counterfactual Explanations in Recommender Systems

Interpretable explanations for recommender systems and other machine learning models are crucial to gain user trust. Prior works that have focused on paths connecting users and items in a heterogeneous network have several limitations, such as discovering relationships rather than true explanations, or disregarding other users' privacy. In this project, we take a fresh perspective, and present PRINCE: a provider-side mechanism to produce tangible explanations for end-users, where an explanation is defined to be a set of minimal actions performed by the user that, if removed, changes the recommendation to a different item. Given a recommendation, PRINCE uses a polynomial-time optimal algorithm for finding this minimal set of a user's actions from an exponential search space, based on random walks over dynamic graphs. Experiments on two real-world datasets show that PRINCE provides more compact explanations than intuitive baselines, and insights from a crowdsourced user-study demonstrate the viability of such action-based explanations. We thus posit that PRINCE produces scrutable, actionable, and concise explanations, owing to its use of counterfactual evidence, a user's own actions, and minimal sets, respectively.

Publication(s)

Azin Ghazimatin, Oana Balalau, Rishiraj Saha Roy, and Gerhard Weikum 

PRINCE: Provider-side Interpretability with Counterfactual Explanations in Recommender Systems

Proceedings of the 13th ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM 2020)