Visual Causality Analysis of Event Sequence Data


Causality is crucial to understanding the mechanisms behind complex systems and making decisions that lead to intended outcomes. Event sequence data is widely collected from many real-world processes, such as electronic health records, web clickstreams, and financial transactions, which transmit a great deal of information reflecting the causal relations among event types. Unfortunately, recovering causalities from observational event sequences is challenging, as the heterogeneous and high-dimensional event variables are often connected to rather complex underlying event excitation mechanisms that are hard to infer from limited observations. Many of the existing automated causal analysis techniques suffer from poor explainability and fail to encode an adequate amount of human knowledge. In this paper, we introduce a visual analytics method for recovering causalities in event sequence data. We extend the Granger causality analysis algorithm on Hawkes processes to incorporate user feedback into causal model refinement. The visualization system includes an interactive causal analysis framework that supports bottom-up causal exploration, iterative causal verification and refinement, and causal comparison through a set of novel visualizations and interactions. We report two forms of evaluation: quantitative evaluation of the model improvements brought by the user-feedback mechanism, and qualitative evaluation through a case study with domain expert feedback that demonstrates the usefulness of the system.

IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Volume 27, Issue 2)