Research has shown that personal narratives—the stories we tell ourselves about our lives—can play a critical role in identity and help us make sense of the past and present. Research has also shown that by helping people reinterpret narratives, therapists can guide patients toward healthier thoughts and behaviors.
Now, researchers from the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania have tested the ability of ChatGPT-4 to generate individualized personal narratives based on stream-of-consciousness thoughts and demographic details from participants, and showed that people found the language model’s responses accurate.
In a new study in The Journal of Positive Psychology, Abigail Blyler and Martin Seligman found that 25 of the 26 participants rated the AI-generated responses as completely or mostly accurate, 19 rated the narratives as very or somewhat surprising, and 19 indicated they learned something new about themselves. Seligman, the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology, is the director of the Positive Psychology Center, and Blyler is his research manager.
“This is a rare moment in the history of scientific psychology: Artificial intelligence now promises much more effective psychotherapy and coaching,” Seligman says.
For each participant, the researchers fed ChatGPT-4 recorded stream-of-consciousness thoughts, which Blyler likened to diary entries with thoughts as simple as “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired.” In a second study published concurrently in The Journal of Positive Psychology, they fed five narratives rated “completely accurate” into ChatGPT-4, asked for specific interventions, and found that the chatbot generated highly plausible coaching strategies and interventions.
“Since coaching and therapy typically involve a great deal of initial time spent fleshing out such an identity, deriving this automatically from 50 thoughts represents a major savings,” the authors write.
Blyler, the first author and a student in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology Program, shares more about the studies in a Q & A.