Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Salient ImageNet: How to discover spurious features in Deep Learning?

Sahil Singla · Soheil Feizi

Keywords: [ robustness ] [ debugging ] [ interpretability ]


Deep neural networks can be unreliable in the real world especially when they heavily use {\it spurious} features for their predictions. Focusing on image classifications, we define {\it core features} as the set of visual features that are always a part of the object definition while {\it spurious features} are the ones that are likely to {\it co-occur} with the object but not a part of it (e.g., attribute fingers" for classband aid"). Traditional methods for discovering spurious features either require extensive human annotations (thus, not scalable), or are useful on specific models. In this work, we introduce a {\it general} framework to discover a subset of spurious and core visual features used in inferences of a general model and localize them on a large number of images with minimal human supervision. Our methodology is based on this key idea: to identify spurious or core \textit{visual features} used in model predictions, we identify spurious or core \textit{neural features} (penultimate layer neurons of a robust model) via limited human supervision (e.g., using top 5 activating images per feature). We then show that these neural feature annotations {\it generalize} extremely well to many more images {\it without} any human supervision. We use the activation maps for these neural features as the soft masks to highlight spurious or core visual features. Using this methodology, we introduce the {\it Salient Imagenet} dataset containing core and spurious masks for a large set of samples from Imagenet. Using this dataset, we show that several popular Imagenet models rely heavily on various spurious features in their predictions, indicating the standard accuracy alone is not sufficient to fully assess model' performance specially in safety-critical applications. Code is available at \url{}.

Chat is not available.