Cultural Bias in Explainable AI Research

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (forthcoming)
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For synergistic interactions between humans and artificial intelligence (AI) systems, AI outputs often need to be explainable to people. Explainable AI (XAI) systems are commonly tested in human user studies. However, whether XAI researchers consider potential cultural differences in human explanatory needs remains unexplored. We highlight psychological research that found significant differences in human explanations between many people from Western, commonly individualist countries and people from non-Western, often collectivist countries. We argue that XAI research currently overlooks these variations and that many popular XAI designs implicitly and problematically assume that Western explanatory needs are shared cross-culturally. Additionally, we systematically reviewed over 200 XAI user studies and found that most studies did not consider relevant cultural variations, sampled only Western populations, but drew conclusions about human-XAI interactions more generally. We also analyzed over 30 literature reviews of XAI studies. Most reviews did not mention cultural differences in explanatory needs or flag overly broad cross-cultural extrapolations of XAI user study results. Combined, our analyses provide evidence of a cultural bias toward Western populations in XAI research, highlighting an important knowledge gap regarding how culturally diverse users may respond to widely used XAI systems that future work can and should address.

Author Profiles

Uwe Peters
Utrecht University
Mary Carman
University of Witwatersrand


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