There and Back Again: Revisiting Backpropagation Saliency Methods

Sylvestre-Alvise Rebuffi, Ruth Fong, Xu Ji, Andrea Vedaldi; Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), 2020, pp. 8839-8848


Saliency methods seek to explain the predictions of a model by producing an importance map across each input sample. A popular class of such methods is based on backpropagating a signal and analyzing the resulting gradient. Despite much research on such methods, relatively little work has been done to clarify the differences between such methods as well as the desiderata of these techniques. Thus, there is a need for rigorously understanding the relationships between different methods as well as their failure modes. In this work, we conduct a thorough analysis of backpropagation-based saliency methods and propose a single framework under which several such methods can be unified. As a result of our study, we make three additional contributions. First, we use our framework to propose NormGrad, a novel saliency method based on the spatial contribution of gradients of convolutional weights. Second, we combine saliency maps at different layers to test the ability of saliency methods to extract complementary information at different network levels (e.g. trading off spatial resolution and distinctiveness) and we explain why some methods fail at specific layers (e.g., Grad-CAM anywhere besides the last convolutional layer). Third, we introduce a class-sensitivity metric and a meta-learning inspired paradigm applicable to any saliency method for improving sensitivity to the output class being explained.

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[pdf] [supp] [arXiv]
author = {Rebuffi, Sylvestre-Alvise and Fong, Ruth and Ji, Xu and Vedaldi, Andrea},
title = {There and Back Again: Revisiting Backpropagation Saliency Methods},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR)},
month = {June},
year = {2020}