AI-Generated Arguments Changed Minds on Controversial Hot-Button Issues, According to Study – PhysOrg 3/2/23


Suddenly, the world is abuzz with chatter about chatbots. Artificially intelligent agents, like ChatGPT, have shown themselves to be remarkably adept at conversing in a very human-like fashion. Implications stretch from the classroom to Capitol Hill. ChatGPT, for instance, recently passed written exams at top business and law schools, among other feats both awe-inspiring and alarming.

Researchers at Stanford University’s Polarization and Social Change Lab and the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) wanted to probe the boundaries of AI’s political persuasiveness by testing its ability to sway real humans on some of the hottest social issues of the day—an assault weapon ban, the carbon tax, and paid parental leave, among others.

“AI fared quite well. Indeed, AI-generated persuasive appeals were as effective as ones written by humans in persuading human audiences on several political issues,” said Hui “Max” Bai, a postdoctoral researcher in the Polarization and Social Change Lab and first author on a new paper about the experiment in pre-print.

Clever comparison

The research team, led by Robb Willer, a professor of sociology, psychology, and in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences and director of the Polarization and Social Change Lab, used GPT-3, the same large language model that fuels ChatGPT. They asked their model to craft persuasive messages on several controversial topics.

They then had thousands of real human beings read those persuasive texts. The readers were randomly assigned texts—sometimes they were written by AI, other times they were crafted by humans. In all cases, participants were asked to declare their positions on the issues before and after reading. The research team was then able to gauge how persuasive the messages had been on the readers and to assess which authors had been most persuasive and why.

Across all three comparisons conducted, the AI-generated messages were “consistently persuasive to human readers.” Though the effect sizes were relatively small, falling within a range of a few points on a scale of zero to 100, such small moves extrapolated across a polarizing topic and a voting-population scale could prove significant….

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