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AI Psychologists

July 24, 2015

Can computer programs help people feel more comfortable sharing their personal problems?



Computers as psychologists. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Would you confide your personal problems to a computer program? According to Science magazine correspondent John Bohannon, virtual psychologists can’t yet match the empathy of a human therapist. But they do have some advantages, like helping people share their feelings.

JOHN BOHANNON (Science Magazine):

When you talk to a computer, it doesn’t really have a deep sympathy with you. It probably doesn’t really fully understand your world or your problems, but it’s listening. So the idea is that you can open up to this thing because you are by definition not being judged by another person.


The programs could be made available via the internet to people without access to care. And researchers are improving them to better learn and adapt to patients’ unique issues in real time.


Under the hood, it’s all just math, it’s a statistical model, but on the outside, it’s going to seem increasingly human.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.