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The impact of feature importance methods on the interpretation of defect classifiers

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Abstract--Classifier specific (CS) and classifier agnostic (CA) feature importance methods are widely used (often interchangeably) by prior studies to derive feature importance ranks from a defect classifier. However, different feature importance methods are likely to compute different feature importance ranks even for the same dataset and classifier. Hence such interchangeable use of feature importance methods can lead to conclusion instabilities unless there is a strong agreement among different methods. Therefore, in this paper, we evaluate the agreement between the feature importance ranks associated with the studied classifiers through a case study of 18 software projects and six commonly used classifiers. We find that: 1) The computed feature importance ranks by CA and CS methods do not always strongly agree with each other. Such findings raise concerns about the stability of conclusions across replicated studies. We further observe that the commonly used defect datasets are rife with feature interactions and these feature interactions impact the computed feature importance ranks of the CS methods (not the CA methods). We demonstrate that removing these feature interactions, even with simple methods like CFS improves agreement between the computed feature importance ranks of CA and CS methods. In light of our findings, we provide guidelines for stakeholders and practitioners when performing model interpretation and directions for future research, e.g., future research is needed to investigate the impact of advanced feature interaction removal methods on computed feature importance ranks of different CS methods. We note, however, that a CS method is not always readily available for Defect classifiers are widely used by many large software corporations a given classifier. Defect classifiers are commonly and deep neural networks do not have a widely accepted CS interpreted to uncover insights to improve software quality. Therefore it is the feature importance ranks of different classifiers is pivotal that these generated insights are reliable. Such CA methods measure the contribution of each feature a feature importance method to compute a ranking of feature towards a classifier's predictions. These measure the contribution of each feature by effecting changes to feature importance ranks reflect the order in which the studied that particular feature in the dataset and observing its impact on features contribute to the predictive capability of the studied the outcome. The primary advantage of CA methods is that they classifier [14].