MCCE: Monte Carlo sampling of realistic counterfactual explanations


In this paper we introduce MCCE: Monte Carlo sampling of realistic Counterfactual Explanations, a model-based method that generates counterfactual explanations by producing a set of feasible examples using conditional inference trees. Unlike algorithmic-based counterfactual methods that have to solve complex optimization problems or other model based methods that model the data distribution using heavy machine learning models, MCCE is made up of only two light-weight steps (generation and post-processing). MCCE is also straightforward for the end user to understand and implement, handles any type of predictive model and type of feature, takes into account actionability constraints when generating the counterfactual explanations, and generates as many counterfactual explanations as needed. In this paper we introduce MCCE and give a comprehensive list of performance metrics that can be used to compare counterfactual explanations. We also compare MCCE with a range of state-of-the-art methods and a new baseline method on benchmark data sets. MCCE outperforms all model-based methods and most algorithmic-based methods when also taking into account validity (i.e., a correctly changed prediction) and actionability constraints. Finally, we show that MCCE has the strength of performing almost as well when given just a small subset of the training data.

arXiv preprint arXiv:2111.09790