What is it about?
Most of the things that psychologists study cannot be directly observed – such as emotions, cognitions, or personality. That is why, as a research field, psychologists rely on asking people good questions. For example, to learn about someone's personality, researchers commonly use carefully crafted and rigorously vetted, tried-and-tested questionnaires that tap into typical behaviours, feelings, and thoughts that are characteristic for a specific person. In this study, we used GPT-2, a powerful generative language algorithm and a member of the same family that the now-famous Chat-GPT belongs to, to see whether we could use artificial intelligence to help create meaningful, psychometrically sound personality measures. We then recruited two large Canadian samples and tested these algorithmically-generated items against current gold standards in personality assessment. While not perfect, it turns out that – when receiving the right prompts – GPT-2 can produce questions that are about as good as the questions that expert personality researchers come up with.
Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash
Why is it important?
Although questionnaire design may sound dry or technical, it matters because when it comes to understanding someone's personality – with the many implications that this has for us from what we do to where we live to who we live with – it is important to get the questions right. Human experts are great at asking the right questions, but it can be a very time-consuming and challenging task to continuously come up with good questions. Questions also age and what might have been a good question in 2003 may no longer be a good question in 2023 to learn about someone's personality, or attitudes, or values. In other words, there is an ongoing demand for good questions in psychology and the social sciences more broadly – and our research suggests that one benevolent application of modern artificial intelligence might lie in using it to generate such questions.
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This page is a summary of: Let the algorithm speak: How to use neural networks for automatic item generation in psychological scale development., Psychological Methods, February 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/met0000540.
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