Conformal Prediction Sets with Limited False Positives

February, 2022


We develop a new approach to multi-label conformal prediction in which we aim to output a precise set of promising prediction candidates with a bounded number of incorrect answers. Standard conformal prediction provides the ability to adapt to model uncertainty by constructing a calibrated candidate set in place of a single prediction, with guarantees that the set contains the correct answer with high probability. In order to obey this coverage property, however, conformal sets can become inundated with noisy candidates -- which can render them unhelpful in practice. This is particularly relevant to practical applications where there is a limited budget, and the cost (monetary or otherwise) associated with false positives is non-negligible. We propose to trade coverage for a notion of precision by enforcing that the presence of incorrect candidates in the predicted conformal sets (i.e., the total number of false positives) is bounded according to a user-specified tolerance. Subject to this constraint, our algorithm then optimizes for a generalized notion of set coverage (i.e., the true positive rate) that allows for any number of true answers for a given query (including zero). We demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach across a number of classification tasks in natural language processing, computer vision, and computational chemistry.

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