AI vs Human Empathy: Machine Learning More Empathy

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Abstract: AI-generated messages can make recipients feel more “heard” than untrained human responses. Research shows AI’s superior ability to detect and respond to human emotions, potentially providing better emotional support.

However, the study also found that knowing a message from an AI can make recipients feel less heard, highlighting a bias against AI-induced empathy. As AI becomes more integrated into everyday life, this research underscores the importance of understanding and leveraging AI to effectively address human psychological needs.

Important facts:

  1. AI-generated responses were initially more effective at making recipients feel heard than untrained humans.
  2. Participants felt less heard when they knew the response was generated by an AI, indicating a bias against AI in emotional contexts.
  3. Research shows that AI can provide disciplined emotional support and be a valuable tool in enhancing human interaction and empathy.

Source: USC

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences It found that AI-generated messages made recipients feel more “heard” than messages generated by untrained humans, and that AI was better at detecting emotion than humans. However, recipients reported that they heard less when they knew a message had come from AI.

As AI becomes more common in everyday life, understanding its potential and limitations in addressing human psychological needs becomes more pertinent. With empathic connections diminishing in a fast-paced world, many people are finding their human needs to be heard and validated increasingly unfulfilled.

Rather than AI replacing humans, research points to various benefits of AI and human responses. Credit: Neuroscience News

Research by Yidan Yin, Nan Jia, and Cheryl J. Wakslik from the USC Marshall School of Business answers an important question: Can AI, which lacks human consciousness and emotional experience, listen and understand people? Can be successful in making sense of?

“In the context of the growing epidemic of loneliness, a big part of our motivation was to see if AI could really help people feel heard,” said the paper’s first author, Yidan Yin, of the Lloyd Greif Center for is a post-doctoral researcher in Entrepreneurial Studies. USC Marshall.

The team’s findings not only highlight the potential of AI to enhance the human capacity for understanding and communication, but also raise important conceptual questions about the meaning and practice of listening to help maximize human flourishing. How to best leverage the powers of AI.

In an experiment and subsequent follow-up studies, Nan Jia said, “We identified that while AI demonstrated a better ability to provide emotional support than untrained human responders, AI responses The undervaluation of is a key challenge to effectively harnessing AI’s capabilities,” said Nan Jia. Associate Professor of Strategic Management.

The USC Marshall research team investigated people’s feelings of hearing and other related perceptions and emotions after receiving a response from an AI or human.

The survey varied both the actual source of the message and the apparent source of the message: participants received messages that were actually generated by AI or by a human respondent, with information on whether it was AI or human-generated.

“What we found was that both the actual source of the message and the assumed source of the message played a role,” said Cheryl Wakslak, associate professor of management and organization at USC Marshall.

“People felt more heard when they received an AI than a human message, but felt less heard when they believed a message came from an AI.”

AI bias

Yen notes that his research “basically finds bias against AI. It’s useful, but they don’t like it.”

Perceptions of AI are bound to change, Wakslak added: “Of course these effects can change over time, but one of the interesting things we saw was that the two effects we observed were quite similar in magnitude. were the same.

While there is a positive effect of receiving an AI message, there is a similar degree of response bias when a message is identified as coming from an AI, so that the two effects necessarily cancel each other out. They do.”

Individuals further reported an “uncanny valley” response – a sense of unease when they were informed that the empathic response originated from AI, which simulated complex emotional scenarios navigated through AI-human interactions. Highlighted

The research survey also asked participants about their general openness to AI, which moderated some of the effects, Wakslak explained.

“People who feel more positively about AI don’t exhibit as much counter-punishment and it’s interesting because over time, will people have more positive attitudes toward AI?” He submitted.

“That remains to be seen … but it will be interesting to see how it plays out as people’s familiarity and experience with AI grows.”

AI provides better emotional support.

The study highlighted important nuances. AI-generated responses were associated with increased hope and decreased distress, indicating a positive emotional impact on recipients. AI was more disciplined than humans in offering emotional support and avoided making overwhelming practical suggestions.

“Ironically, the AI ​​was better at using emotional support strategies that have been shown to be empathetic and accurate in prior research,” explained Yen.

“Humans can potentially learn from AI because often times when our significant other is complaining about something, we want to confirm it, but we don’t know how to do it effectively. “

Rather than AI replacing humans, research points to various benefits of AI and human responses. Advanced technology can be a valuable tool, empowering humans to use AI to help them understand each other better and learn how to respond in ways that provide emotional support. Are and demonstrate understanding and validation.

Overall, the paper’s findings have important implications for the integration of AI into more social contexts. Leveraging the capabilities of AI can provide a cost-effective, scalable solution for social support, especially for people who may not otherwise have access to people who can provide them with such support.

However, as the research team notes, their findings suggest that careful consideration must be given to how AI is presented and perceived in order to maximize its benefits and minimize any negative reactions. Is.

About this AI and empathy research news

the author: Yadan Yin
Source: USC
contact: Yidan Yin – USC
Image: This image is credited to Neuroscience News.

Original research: closed access
“AI can help people feel heard, but AI labels reduce this effect” Yidan Yin et al. PNAS


AI can help people feel heard, but the AI ​​label undermines that effect.

People want to “feel heard” to feel understood, validated, and valued. Does AI perform the deeply human function of making others feel heard?

Our research addresses two fundamental issues: Can AI produce responses that make human receivers feel heard, and how do human receivers react when they believe the response came from AI? ?

We conducted an experiment and a follow-up study to disentangle the effects of actual message source and perceived source.

We found that AI-generated messages made recipients feel heard more than human-generated messages and that AI is better at detecting emotion. However, receivers heard less when they perceived a message as coming from an AI (vs. a human).

Finally, in a follow-up study where responses were rated by third-party raters, we found that compared to humans, AI demonstrated higher discipline in offering emotional support, which people Listening is an important factor in making sense, and avoiding overly practical suggestions, which may be less effective in achieving this goal.

Our research illustrates the potential and limitations of AI in addressing human psychological needs.

These findings suggest that while AI demonstrates improved capabilities for providing emotional support, the devaluation of AI responses is a significant challenge for effectively leveraging AI capabilities.

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