Counterfactual Generative Networks

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This repository contains the code for the ICLR 2021 paper “Counterfactual Generative Networks” by Axel Sauer and Andreas Geiger. If you want to take the CGN for a spin and generate counterfactual images, you can try out the Colab below.


If you find our code or paper useful, please cite

 author =  {Axel Sauer, Andreas Geiger},
 title = {Counterfactual Generative Networks},
 booktitle = {International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR)},
 year = {2021}}


Install anaconda (if you don’t have it yet)

source ~/.profile

Clone the repo and build the environment

git clone
cd counterfactual_generative_networks
conda env create -f environment.yml
conda activate cgn

Make all scripts executable: chmod +x scripts/*. Then, download the datasets (colored MNIST, Cue-Conflict, IN-9) and the pre-trained weights (CGN, U2-Net). Comment out the ones you don’t need.



The main functions of this sub-repo are:

  • Generating the MNIST variants
  • Training a CGN
  • Generating counterfactual datasets
  • Training a shape classifier

Train the CGN

We provide well-working configs and weights in mnists/experiments. To train a CGN on, e.g., Wildlife MNIST, run

python mnists/ --cfg mnists/experiments/cgn_wildlife_MNIST/cfg.yaml

For more info, add --help. Weights and samples will be saved in mnists/experiments/.

Generate Counterfactual Data

To generate the counterfactuals for, e.g., double-colored MNIST, run

python mnists/ \
--weight_path mnists/experiments/cgn_double_colored_MNIST/weights/ckp.pth \
--dataset double_colored_MNIST --no_cfs 10 --dataset_size 100000

Make sure that you provide the right dataset together with the weights. You can adapt the weight-path to use your own weights. The command above generates ten counterfactuals per shape.

Train the Invariant Classifier

The classifier training uses Tensor datasets, so you need to save the non-counterfactual datasets as tensors. For DATASET = {colored_MNIST, double_colored_MNIST, wildlife_MNIST}, run

python mnists/ --dataset DATASET

To train, e.g., a shape classifier (invariant to foreground and background) on wildlife MNIST, run,

python mnists/ --dataset wildlife_MNIST_counterfactual

Add --help for info on the available options and arguments. The hyperparameters are unchanged for all experiments.


The main functions of this sub-repo are:

  • Training a CGN
  • Generating data (samples, interpolations, or a whole dataset)
  • Training an invariant classifier ensemble

Train the CGN


python imagenet/ --model_name MODEL_NAME

The default parameters should give you satisfactory results. You can change them in imagenet/config.yml. For more info, add --help. Weights and samples will be saved in imagenet/data/MODEL_NAME.

Generate Counterfactual Data

Samples. To generate a dataset of counterfactual images, run

python imagenet/ --mode random --weights_path imagenet/weights/cgn.pth \
--n_data 100 --weights_path imagenet/weights/cgn.pth --run_name RUN_NAME \
--truncation 0.5 --batch_sz 1

The results will be saved in imagenet/data. For more info, add --help. If you want to save only masks, textures, etc., you need to change this directly in the code (see line 206).

The labels will be stored in a csv file. You can read them as follows:

import pandas as pd
df = pd.read_csv(path, index_col=0)
df = df.set_index('im_name')
shape_cls = df['shape_cls']['RUN_NAME_0000000.png']

Generating a dataset to train a classfier. Produce one dataset with --run_name train, the other one with --run_name val. If you have several GPUs available, you can index the name, e.g., --run_name train_GPU_NUM. The class ImagenetCounterfactual will glob all these datasets and generate a single, big training set. Make sure to set --batch_sz 1. With a larger batch size, a batch will be saved as a single png; this is useful for visualization, not for training.

Interpolations. To generate interpolation sheets, e.g., from a barn (425) to whale (147), run

python imagenet/ --mode fixed_classes \
--n_data 1 --weights_path imagenet/weights/cgn.pth --run_name barn_to_whale \
--truncation 0.3 --interp all --classes 425 425 425 --interp_cls 147 --save_noise

You can also do counterfactual interpolations, i.e., interpolating only over, e.g., shape, by setting --interp shape.

Interpolation Gif. To generate a gif like in the teaser (Sample an image of class $1, than interpolate to shape $2, then background $3, then shape $4, and finally back to $1), run

./scripts/ 992 293 147 330

The positional arguments are the classes, see imagenet labels for the available options.

Train the Invariant Classifier Ensemble

Training. First, you need to make sure that you have all datasets in imagenet/data/. Download Imagenet, e.g., from Kaggle, produce a counterfactual dataset (see above), and download the Cue-Conflict and BG-Challenge dataset (via the download script in scripts).

To train a classifier on a single GPU with a pre-trained Resnet-50 backbone, run

python imagenet/ -a resnet50 -b 32 --lr 0.001 -j 6 \
--epochs 45 --pretrained --cf_data CF_DATA_PATH --name RUN_NAME

Again, add --help for more information on the possible arguments.

Distributed Training. To switch to multi-GPU training, run echo $CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES to see if the GPUs are visible. In the case of a single node with several GPUs, you can run, e.g.,

python imagenet/ -a resnet50 -b 256 --lr 0.001 -j 6 \
--epochs 45 --pretrained --cf_data CF_DATA_PATH --name RUN_NAME \
--rank 0 --multiprocessing-distributed --dist-url tcp:// --world-size 1

If your setup differs, e.g., several GPU machines, you need to adapt the rank and world size.

Visualization. To visualize the Tensorboard outputs, run tensorboard --logdir=imagenet/runs and open the local address in your browser.


We like to acknowledge several repos of which we use parts of code, data, or models in our implementation: