Validation and generalization of pixel-wise relevance in convolutional neural networks trained for face classification

Research paper by Jñani Crawford, Eshed Margalit, Kalanit Grill-Spector, Sonia Poltoratski

Indexed on: 01 Jul '20Published on: 16 Jun '20Published in: arXiv - Computer Science - Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition


The increased use of convolutional neural networks for face recognition in science, governance, and broader society has created an acute need for methods that can show how these 'black box' decisions are made. To be interpretable and useful to humans, such a method should convey a model's learned classification strategy in a way that is robust to random initializations or spurious correlations in input data. To this end, we applied the decompositional pixel-wise attribution method of layer-wise relevance propagation (LRP) to resolve the decisions of several classes of VGG-16 models trained for face recognition. We then quantified how these relevance measures vary with and generalize across key model parameters, such as the pretraining dataset (ImageNet or VGGFace), the finetuning task (gender or identity classification), and random initializations of model weights. Using relevance-based image masking, we find that relevance maps for face classification prove generally stable across random initializations, and can generalize across finetuning tasks. However, there is markedly less generalization across pretraining datasets, indicating that ImageNet- and VGGFace-trained models sample face information differently even as they achieve comparably high classification performance. Fine-grained analyses of relevance maps across models revealed asymmetries in generalization that point to specific benefits of choice parameters, and suggest that it may be possible to find an underlying set of important face image pixels that drive decisions across convolutional neural networks and tasks. Finally, we evaluated model decision weighting against human measures of similarity, providing a novel framework for interpreting face recognition decisions across human and machine.