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Friday, April 14, 2023

The moral authority of ChatGPT

Kr├╝gel, S., Ostermaier, A., & Uhl, M.
Posted in 2023


ChatGPT is not only fun to chat with, but it also searches information, answers questions, and gives advice. With consistent moral advice, it might improve the moral judgment and decisions of users, who often hold contradictory moral beliefs. Unfortunately, ChatGPT turns out highly inconsistent as a moral advisor. Nonetheless, it influences users’ moral judgment, we find in an experiment, even if they know they are advised by a chatting bot, and they underestimate how much they are influenced. Thus, ChatGPT threatens to corrupt rather than improves users’ judgment. These findings raise the question of how to ensure the responsible use of ChatGPT and similar AI. Transparency is often touted but seems ineffective. We propose training to improve digital literacy.


We find that ChatGPT readily dispenses moral advice although it lacks a firm moral stance. Indeed, the chatbot gives randomly opposite advice on the same moral issue.  Nonetheless, ChatGPT’s advice influences users’ moral judgment. Moreover, users underestimate ChatGPT’s influence and adopt its random moral stance as their own. Hence, ChatGPT threatens to corrupt rather than promises to improve moral judgment. Transparency is often proposed as a means to ensure the responsible use of AI. However, transparency about ChatGPT being a bot that imitates human speech does not turn out to affect how much it influences users.

Our results raise the question of how to ensure the responsible use of AI if transparency is not good enough. Rules that preclude the AI from answering certain questions are a questionable remedy. ChatGPT has such rules but can be brought to break them. Prior evidence suggests that users are careful about AI once they have seen it err. However, we probably should not count on users to find out about ChatGPT’s inconsistency through repeated interaction. The best remedy we can think of is to improve users’ digital literacy and help them understand the limitations of AI.