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Chatting with ChatGPT is more human than you think.
Not just for humans anymore. Apparently, telling ChatGPT to “take a deep breath” before solving a hard problem makes it better. Why?
TAKE A BREATH
Kinda fascinating: Researchers have (somehow) discovered that the phrase “Take a deep breath and work on this problem step-by-step,” significantly improves the effectiveness of AI's output.
Repeat: literally typing the words “take a breath” into a chatbot makes for better answers.
But why? How?
Sidebar: The advice to “take a deep breath” is so common that we hardly take a moment to consider just how good it is.
But it really does encapsulate the very essence of how we humans can best approach a tricky challenge —for physiological reasons as well as emotional and psychological ones.
Deep breathing can stimulate something called the parasympathetic response, which promotes relaxation and actually counters the stress response. (Deep breathing is known to lower heart rate and blood pressure, too.)
What’s more, breathing deeply enhances oxygen delivery to the brain and other vital organs. This can sharpen cognitive function, improve concentration, and foster a clearer mind.
So how could typing that phrase into a chat window possibly help a generative AI system return better answers?
AI! THEY’RE JUST LIKE US
Start with the words themselves. In our view, three key elements stand out in that prompt:
1 / Resetting really works. “Take a deep breath” is more or less another way of saying: “Pause. Now reflect.”
Even though the words “take a deep breath” are as human-centric as it gets, and don’t feel like they should apply to AI at all, they actually do serve as a “reset” or a context setter no matter who (or what) is on the receiving end.
Put another way, telling the system to “take a deep breath” is like saying, “focus completely on this next task and don’t get distracted by what’s come before.”
Good advice for anyone, human or machine.
2 / Structure matters. “Work on this problem step by step.” This phrase is all about intention, and focus, and promotes clear and deliberate action. The goal is to nudge the AI towards concentrating on the issue at hand. The phrase also underscores the importance of sequential progress, or a methodical, step-by-step approach.
It makes logical sense that a computational system (as generative AI is) would benefit from an instruction to be as structured as possible with its “thinking.”
3 / Always manage expectations. Saying “work on this problem step by step” also subtly communicates that the question to follow may be multifaceted— and that a structured breakdown is expected in the response. Knowing exactly what you want, and telling AI as much, is a classic prompting best practice.
CLARITY. ALWAYS KEY.
Most people recognize that clear communications are a bit of a business and life hack.
In our view, the reason is because —at its core— clarity is about connection.
Stay with me.
Clear communication is not merely about transmitting information; it's an active task. Yep, “task”. Eliminating barriers of misunderstanding and ambiguity is hard work.
But it’s high reward too.
Before diving into a conversation or task with another person, it's beneficial to set the context up. Phrases like “let's take a moment to think” or “before we proceed, let's recap” help us as humans establish a mental framework for the upcoming discussion.
They also ensure that both parties are on the same page, reducing potential misunderstandings.
Seen this way, clarity signals a respect for the recipient's time and understanding.
Now we know that it also improves ChatGPT’s responses, too.
OK, WHAT’S THE POINT HERE?
As AI becomes an ever more integral part of our lives, it’s strangely satisfying to discover that the best way to speak to, understand, and enjoy the potential of AI, is the same as the best way to speak to, understand, and work with our fellow human beings.
“Deep in a new paper showing that AI comes up with more effective prompts for other AIs than humans do, there is this gem that shows how weird AIs are...” »»
Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Just reply!