Machine Learning
November 21, 2023
min read

Decoding Machine Learning Model Decisions: Tools for Interpretation

November 21, 2023

AI and Machine Learning are attracting significant attention from businesses looking to invest in their future. This implies that interpreting decisions made by machine learning models is a pivotal process to ensure the model's reliability.

In this article, you will understand the significance of insightfully perceiving these decisions and explore the common challenges that can arise when dealing with intricate, black-box machine learning models.

What are ML Model Decisions?

In the field of Machine Learning, a model decision represents the prediction or outcome produced when the machine learning model is presented with input data. These decisions are the basis for AI applications that take them into consideration for their utility.

These decisions are reached after interpreting the data, recognizing patterns, and then making informed predictions. This allows interpretation models to evaluate large amounts of raw data.

In healthcare, where precise decision-making is vital, interpretability provides transparency to the reasoning behind predictions. This empowers healthcare professionals to be able to trust and understand AI-driven insights, resulting in cost reduction and enhancing the quality of care through comprehensible and actionable information.

benefits of interpretation tool

The Importance of Interpreting ML Model Decisions

Interpreting decisions made by Machine Learning models is imperative for a variety of reasons. Machine Learning models involve complex processing, whose intricacies can be too convoluted for businesses and knowledge workers.

A Stanford study found that AI machine-learning models tend to score low on transparency, which is why interpreting the decisions they make can allow for a higher level of clarity. In strictly regulated domains such as healthcare and finance, model interpretability can be a legal requirement.

Machine Learning model interpretability encompasses the process of debugging and improving models. Through the identification and analysis of patterns, models can be refined and optimized to contribute towards model interpretability.

Common Challenges in Interpreting ML Model Decisions

In the rapidly advancing landscape of Machine Learning, several challenges can obstruct the understanding and interpretation of ML model decisions.

Complexity of ML Models

One big challenge in ML analysis is the complexity of the modern models involved. They can involve several data layers and numerous parameters, which makes it difficult to correctly evaluate how each layer and parameter influences the final outcome.

Understanding the intricacies of these models not only provides more transparency but also provides a clearer perspective on why and how certain decisions are made.

Underfitting Bias and Fairness Issues

Addressing biases in ML models is a complex challenge. The presence of biases in data or algorithms can significantly affect the interpretability of model decisions.

Deciphering decisions becomes more complex, and resolving this requires dealing with biases and developing methods that can identify specific sources of bias within the decision-making process.

A Lack of Standardized Interpretability Methods

The absence of standardized interpretability methods hinders the establishment of universal approaches to interpreting ML decisions. Each model may require customized approaches, leading to a lack of consistency across different models.

Developing standardized methods would require frameworks that can be applied across different models and domains. This problem calls for team efforts in the ML community to establish practices and guidelines for enhancing interpretability in order to ensure a cohesive and accessible strategy for understanding model decisions.

Black Box Nature of ML Models

Machine Learning models are often referred to as "Black Boxes" because of their lack of transparency and difficulties in interpretation. This can often arise due to the complex relationships between the input data, the ML models' objectives, and the decision-making processes they employ.

The task of deciphering which process was used to reach outcomes becomes muddy, which negatively affects Machine Learning model interpretability. This highlights the impact and importance of advancing model interpretability tools and techniques.

Black Box Nature of Models

Key Tools for Interpreting ML Model Decisions

Let's discuss some of the essential tools that allow data scientists to better grasp ML model interpretability, which can lead to more transparency and trust.

Tool 1: Feature Importance Analysis

Feature Importance Analysis is a foundational interpretation tool for ML modeling systems used to analyze the significance of each relative feature in a dataset. It helps quantify each feature to identify a dataset's outcome through various techniques, such as random forests, decision trees, and neural networks.

By assigning values based on importance, data scientists can visualize the features that are the most influential on any decisions made. Through these values, patterns can be determined among different features in order to trace the model's processing.  

Tool 2: Partial Dependence Plots

Partial Dependency Plots provide a visual method of interpreting ML models. They can show how resulting predictions change with respect to a varying feature while others are kept constant. This process can show the influence a particular feature holds over the resulting output.

By evaluating the shapes and trends visualized through Partial Dependence Plots, knowledge makers can discover more complex interactions and detect areas where a model might be showing variable behavior. Any trends found can help gain a more nuanced understanding of the relationships between the dataset features and their overall impact on the outcome.

Tool 3: SHAP Values

SHAP (SHapely Additive exPlanations) values are a tool for interpreting ML model decisions at global and local levels. They make use of a theoretic and unified approach to understand the contributions of all features to the output.

At a global scale, these values quantify each feature in terms of influence over the resulting output and allow for the prioritization of specific features or selections. On a local level, SHAP values help contextualize how specific features lead to specific outcomes. These values enhance transparency and aid in interpretation.

Tool 4: LIME (Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations)

Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations, or LIME, are designed to handle the black-box nature of ML models. It simulates complex model behavior for a specific data point through the creation of a simpler model. This interpretable model helps provide insights into why the complex model underwent particular decisions for that data point.

The model-agnostic nature of LIME makes it widely applicable to a large number of ML models for enhancing transparency and interpretation.


MLXTEND (Machine Learning Extensions) is a Python library that enhances interpretability in data science tasks. It provides a wide range of tools for feature selection, visualization, and more to optimize Machine Learning models effectively.

Tool 6: ELI5

ELI5 is a Python package that helps in debugging Machine Learning models and provides context behind their predictions. It provides a variety of tools to inspect feature significance, inspect permutation importance, and create text-based model explanations.

Best Practices for Interpreting ML Model Decisions

For the effective interpretation of ML model decisions, it is essential to follow the best practices for model interpretability. These can include the following:

1. Beginning with Simpler Models

If possible, starting off with more interpretable, linear models can help build a strong foundation for understanding the relationships between datasets and the models' predicted outcomes.

Progressively moving towards more complex models and algorithms with a strong foundational base will ensure a better grasp on more intricate outcomes.

2. Documenting Progress

Proper documentation of datasets, predicted outcomes and interpretational techniques applied would allow for a valuable reference point to refer to if necessary. An organized approach will help keep research segmented to augment any specific understandings or interpretations made.

3. Keeping Interpretations Updated

The field of Machine Learning is dynamic and constantly evolving. As models evolve and more information becomes widely available, it is valuable to keep track of previous interpretations and update them to ensure higher transparency and updated insights.

AI-powered platforms such as Markov are convenient ways to keep up with new conventions and use Artificial Intelligence to improve model interpretability.

4. Iterative Feedback Loops

Establishing iterative feedback loops between data scientists, domain experts, and end-users helps improve model interpretability. Regularly receiving feedback on outputs helps detect areas for improvement.

The iterative nature ensures that interpretability techniques align with users' needs and the evolving landscape of the particular domain.

5. Using Ensemble Interpretability Methods

Utilizing ensemble methods for model prediction and interpretability can enhance insights. Ensemble models combine the outputs of multiple base models to give a more comprehensive understanding of the decision-making process.

Model averaging can be utilized to aggregate interpretability measures from different models.

6. Conducting Sensitivity Analysis

Performing sensitivity analysis on model inputs can assess the effect of individual data points on the model's output. By systematically changing input values and observing predictions, data scientists can gain insights into which features significantly influence decisions.


With the dynamics involved in Machine Learning, model interpretability is essential for transparency, trustworthiness, and responsible use of AI learning models.

Markov, with its low-code capabilities, can help you monitor your model's performance using features like Experiments and Evaluations.

Book a demo to learn more about these features.


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