In several sources the marginal contribution is defined as

the difference between the prediction with and without the feature.

However, recently I read an article where the marginal contribution was defined as the:

difference between the feature effect minus the average effect.

Suppose a linear model:

fˆ(x) = β0 + β1x1 + … + βpxp

which is what a model prediction looks like for one data instance.

where x is the instance for which we want to compute the contributions. Each xj is a feature value, with j = 1,…,p.

The βj is the weight corresponding to feature j.

Therefore, the marginal contribution of feature j in the model is:

ϕj(fˆ)=βjxj − E(βjXj)

where E( β j X j ) is the mean effect estimate for feature j.

I am having difficulty to understand this definition. I would like to know where this definition come from and how it relates with the other definition:

marginal contribution is the difference between the prediction with and without the feature.


1 Answer 1


Here is a crucial paper to be read that I was also unaware of.$^\dagger$ The article points out the essential differences, both from a theoretical and empirical point of view, between feature importance scores that explain the model and those that explain the data.

Your first definition reflects the importance of a feature for a single prediction (i.e., local), while the second reflects the (entire) model's performance (i.e., global).

$^\dagger$ Thank you for that.


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