Explaining the Predictions of Any Classifier

The paper "Explaining the Predictions of Any Classifier" by Marco Tulio Ribeiro, Sameer Singh, and Carlos Guestrin, introduced a model-agnostic explanation method named LIME (Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations). LIME is designed to explain the predictions of any classifier or regressor in a human-understandable manner.

Overview of LIME

The main idea of LIME is to approximate the prediction of any classifier locally with an interpretable model. The interpretable model can be a linear model, decision tree, or anything that can be easily understood by humans.

Here are the key steps in the LIME algorithm:

  1. Sample Generation: Given an instance for which we want to explain the prediction, LIME generates a set of perturbed samples. The generation of these samples is done by randomly turning some features on and off.

  2. Weight Assignment: LIME assigns weights to these new samples based on their proximity to the original instance. Proximity is typically measured using some form of distance metric, such as cosine similarity in the case of text data or Euclidean distance for tabular data.

  3. Model Training: LIME trains an interpretable model (e.g., linear regression, decision tree) on the dataset created in steps 1 and 2. The target variable for this regression model is the predictions of the original black-box model for the sampled instances.

  4. Explanation Generation: The interpretable model's parameters are used to explain why the black-box model made the prediction it did on the instance of interest.

In mathematical terms, the LIME algorithm solves the following optimization problem:

[ \xi = \arg\min_{g \in G} L(f, g, \pi_x) + \Omega(g) ]


The first term (L(f, g, \pi_x)) encourages (g) to mimic (f) in the vicinity of (x), while the second term (\Omega(g)) discourages overly complex explanations. This is a classic bias-variance tradeoff.


The LIME algorithm is model-agnostic, meaning it can be applied to any classifier or regressor. This makes it very versatile and useful in many different contexts. Its focus on local explanations also means that it can produce highly accurate explanations for individual predictions, even when the global behavior of the model is extremely complex and non-linear.

The interpretability provided by LIME can increase trust in machine learning models, help debug and improve models, and ensure that models are making decisions for the right reasons. It can also help meet legal requirements related to the "right to explanation", where users are allowed to know why a model made a certain decision about them.

However, it's important to remember that LIME's explanations are approximations and may not perfectly capture the true reasoning of the black-box model. The quality of the explanations also depends on the choice of interpretable model and the proximity measure.

LIME also has computational costs: it requires generating many perturbed samples and training a new interpretable model for each prediction that needs to be explained. This can be computationally expensive for large datasets or complex black-box models.

Tags: interpretability, LIME
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