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Shortcomings of Top-Down Randomization-Based Sanity Checks for Evaluations of Deep Neural Network Explanations

Alexander Binder
Leander Weber
Sebastian Lapuschkin
Grégoire Montavon
Klaus-Robert Müller
Wojciech Samek

June 17 , 2023

While the evaluation of explanations is an important step towards trustworthy models, it needs to be done carefully, and the employed metrics need to be well-understood. Specifically model randomization testing is often overestimated and regarded as a sole criterion for selecting or discarding certain explanation methods. To address shortcomings of this test, we start by observing an experimental gap in the ranking of explanation methods between randomization-based sanity checks [1] and model output faithfulness measures (e.g. [25]). We identify limitations of model-randomization-based sanity checks for the purpose of evaluating explanations. Firstly, we show that uninformative attribution maps created with zero pixel-wise covariance easily achieve high scores in this type of checks. Secondly, we show that top-down model randomization preserves scales of forward pass activations with high probability. That is, channels with large activations have a high probility to contribute strongly to the output, even after randomization of the network on top of them. Hence, explanations after randomization can only be expected to differ to a certain extent. This explains the observed experimental gap. In summary, these results demonstrate the inadequacy of model-randomization-based sanity checks as a criterion to rank attribution methods.