Faithful and Consistent Graph Neural Network Explanations with Rationale Alignment

Tianxiang Zhao, Dongsheng Luo, Xiang Zhang, Suhang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Uncovering rationales behind predictions of graph neural networks (GNNs) has received increasing attention over recent years. Instance-level GNN explanation aims to discover critical input elements, such as nodes or edges, that the target GNN relies upon for making predictions. Though various algorithms are proposed, most of them formalize this task by searching the minimal subgraph, which can preserve original predictions. However, an inductive bias is deep-rooted in this framework: Several subgraphs can result in the same or similar outputs as the original graphs. Consequently, they have the danger of providing spurious explanations and failing to provide consistent explanations. Applying them to explain weakly performed GNNs would further amplify these issues. To address this problem, we theoretically examine the predictions of GNNs from the causality perspective. Two typical reasons for spurious explanations are identified: confounding effect of latent variables like distribution shift and causal factors distinct from the original input. Observing that both confounding effects and diverse causal rationales are encoded in internal representations, we propose a new explanation framework with an auxiliary alignment loss, which is theoretically proven to be optimizing a more faithful explanation objective intrinsically. Concretely for this alignment loss, a set of different perspectives are explored: anchor-based alignment, distributional alignment based on Gaussian mixture models, mutual-information-based alignment, and so on. A comprehensive study is conducted both on the effectiveness of this new framework in terms of explanation faithfulness/consistency and on the advantages of these variants. For our codes, please refer to the following URL link:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number92
JournalACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 9 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Artificial Intelligence

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