As probabilistic systems gain popularity and are coming into wider use, the need for a mechanism that explains the system's findings and recommendations becomes more critical. The system will also need a mechanism for ordering competing explanations. We examine two representative approaches to explanation in the literature - one due to G\"ardenfors and one due to Pearl - and show that both suffer from significant problems. We propose an approach to defining a notion of "better explanation" that combines some of the features of both together with more recent work by Pearl and others on causality.
Most Relevant Explanation (MRE) is a method for finding multivariate explanations for given evidence in Bayesian networks . This paper studies the theoretical properties of MRE and develops an algorithm for finding multiple top MRE solutions. Our study shows that MRE relies on an implicit soft relevance measure in automatically identifying the most relevant target variables and pruning less relevant variables from an explanation. The soft measure also enables MRE to capture the intuitive phenomenon of explaining away encoded in Bayesian networks. Furthermore, our study shows that the solution space of MRE has a special lattice structure which yields interesting dominance relations among the solutions. A K-MRE algorithm based on these dominance relations is developed for generating a set of top solutions that are more representative. Our empirical results show that MRE methods are promising approaches for explanation in Bayesian networks.
Comprehensible explanations of probabilistic reasoning are a prerequisite for wider acceptance of Bayesian methods in expert systems and decision support systems. A study of human reasoning under uncertainty suggests two different strategies for explaining probabilistic reasoning: The first, qualitative belief propagation, traces the qualitative effect of evidence through a belief network from one variable to the next. This propagation algorithm is an alternative to the graph reduction algorithms of Wellman (1988) for inference in qualitative probabilistic networks. It is based on a qualitative analysis of intercausal reasoning, which is a generalization of Pearl's "explaining away", and an alternative to Wellman's definition of qualitative synergy. The other, Scenario-based reasoning, involves the generation of alternative causal "stories" accounting for the evidence. Comparing a few of the most probable scenarios provides an approximate way to explain the results of probabilistic reasoning. Both schemes employ causal as well as probabilistic knowledge. Probabilities may be presented as phrases and/or numbers. Users can control the style, abstraction and completeness of explanations.
A major inference task in Bayesian networks is explaining why some variables are observed in their particular states using a set of target variables. Existing methods for solving this problem often generate explanations that are either too simple (underspecified) or too complex (overspecified). In this paper, we introduce a method called Most Relevant Explanation (MRE) which finds a partial instantiation of the target variables that maximizes the generalized Bayes factor (GBF) as the best explanation for the given evidence. Our study shows that GBF has several theoretical properties that enable MRE to automatically identify the most relevant target variables in forming its explanation. In particular, conditional Bayes factor (CBF), defined as the GBF of a new explanation conditioned on an existing explanation, provides a soft measure on the degree of relevance of the variables in the new explanation in explaining the evidence given the existing explanation. As a result, MRE is able to automatically prune less relevant variables from its explanation. We also show that CBF is able to capture well the explaining-away phenomenon that is often represented in Bayesian networks. Moreover, we define two dominance relations between the candidate solutions and use the relations to generalize MRE to find a set of top explanations that is both diverse and representative. Case studies on several benchmark diagnostic Bayesian networks show that MRE is often able to find explanatory hypotheses that are not only precise but also concise.
Relevance-based explanation is a scheme in which partial assignments to Bayesian belief network variables are explanations (abductive conclusions). We allow variables to remain unassigned in explanations as long as they are irrelevant to the explanation, where irrelevance is defined in terms of statistical independence. When multiple-valued variables exist in the system, especially when subsets of values correspond to natural types of events, the over specification problem, alleviated by independence-based explanation, resurfaces. As a solution to that, as well as for addressing the question of explanation specificity, it is desirable to collapse such a subset of values into a single value on the fly. The equivalent method, which is adopted here, is to generalize the notion of assignments to allow disjunctive assignments. We proceed to define generalized independence based explanations as maximum posterior probability independence based generalized assignments (GIB-MAPs). GIB assignments are shown to have certain properties that ease the design of algorithms for computing GIB-MAPs. One such algorithm is discussed here, as well as suggestions for how other algorithms may be adapted to compute GIB-MAPs. GIB-MAP explanations still suffer from instability, a problem which may be addressed using ?approximate? conditional independence as a condition for irrelevance.