ChatGPT could coach those with social anxiety, experiment suggests

A new video suggest there's a positive social element to the tool

ChatGPT social experiment

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There are many things ChatGPT can do well, and there are many possibilities for ChatGPT and AI’s future helpfulness for humans. But knowing how helpful it can be can only be achieved by testing it. And while some find the abilities of AI tools unnerving, one developer has found a potentially transformative use for those who struggle in social situations.

Regular users of OpenAI’s tool will know about ChatGPT’s ability to draft copy, provide coding support, and engage humans with natural language. But a new coaching simulator, shared on Reddit by user No_Wheel, shows that ChatGPT may be able to help coach those who struggle in interacting with others.

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ChatGPT VR coaching

The Reddit post has the title ‘Using ChatGPT to improve your social skills at a party is so great!…’ and No_Wheel shares a video by Berlin-based Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality developer, Tore Knabe. The video is an experiment with ChatGPT and its potential for positively coaching those who find social situations uncomfortable or overwhelming.

In the video, embedded at the bottom of this article, Knabe navigates a VR party scene in which ChatGPT “is the brains” and generates the dialog for all attendees (NPCs) at the party. Not only that, but the ChatGPT coach at the party, ‘Greg’, is on hand to provide guidance and support for Knabe as he fills the role of someone uncomfortable with social situations. At the start of the video, Knabe engages with ‘Greg’ to ask for some advice, and receives tips on asking about others’ interests and finding common ground.

ChatGPT’s speed of response is clearly somewhat delayed, and as Knabe asks who he should speak to first, Greg suggests speaking to two women NPCs who “seem to be chatting and not too involved in other conversations”. After engaging in a conversation with the two NPCs, Greg provides feedback which could be seen as quite helpful in building confidence. This is reinforced by advice such as “asking more questions to keep the conversation flowing”.

Knabe’s second trial conversation, with an NPC named Hannah who is dancing alone – something that many may find intimidating – results in Greg saying that he thought it went well. Greg adds that Knabe “shouldn’t be afraid to try new things and put yourself out there”.

Although perhaps not a substitute for real life, the goal of the experiment is clearly to build skills and confidence before actual social interactions. And, at the time of writing, the most upvoted comment is by a Reddit user named Skelthy, who sees that value in the video:

“Years and years ago the practice of using VR in therapy to help treat phobias of things like heights and spiders was already a thing, I can see this being used the same way for social anxiety and other such issues.”

ChatGPT social anxiety support

It seems there may be potential for ChatGPT in a supportive, coaching environment like the one Knabe has created. However, there are some areas where things would need to be improved for a smoother experience. Knabe notes a couple of issues in the video itself with on-screen titles, pointing to delays caused by speech-to-text, followed by ChatGPT’s own processing, and then a text-to-speech response.

Still, overall, the experiment seems largely positive for ChatGPT’s potential to help those who may benefit from coaching. And it builds upon a previous post on Reddit by user Dafugisgoinon, who asked ChatGPT for social anxiety help. The tool’s advice on that occasion included: practice self-compassion, start small, challenge negative beliefs.

On the YouTube video for his experiment, Knabe notes he used OpenAI’s Whisper for speech-to-text, GPT3.5-Turbo for the NPC’s “brains”, and ElvenLabs for text-to-speech. The novel approach is certainly interesting.