Placebo Effect: AI Augmentation Belief Spurs Risk-Taking

The belief in AI enhancement can lead to increased risk-taking behavior. In the study, participants were informed that an AI application would enhance their cognitive abilities during a virtual card game. Despite the absence of actual AI assistance, participants displayed higher risk-taking, indicating a potential placebo effect in technological applications.

Human augmentation technologies encompass a range of technological aids designed to enhance human abilities, including exoskeletons and augmented reality headsets. A recent study conducted at LMU’s Chair of Human-Centered Ubiquitous Media has shed light on users’ high expectations regarding the effects of these technologies.

Upon perceiving that AI is bolstering their cognitive capabilities, individuals tend to exhibit an increased inclination towards risk-taking, regardless of whether the AI is actively assisting them. Steeven Villa, the lead author of the study and a doctoral researcher at the Chair of Human-Centered Ubiquitous Media, emphasizes the influence of AI hype on user expectations, which can lead to riskier behavior.

To investigate this phenomenon, participants were informed that they would receive assistance from an AI application designed to enhance their cognitive abilities during a virtual card game. In reality, no such AI enhancement existed. Nevertheless, the participants displayed elevated risk-taking tendencies once they believed they were benefitting from AI.

The study highlights the potential existence of a placebo effect in technical applications of this nature, similar to the well-established placebo effect observed in medication. Albrecht Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science at LMU, stresses the importance of understanding and addressing this placebo effect in intelligent systems to ensure the development of genuinely supportive solutions.

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend rigorously assessing the actual benefits of AI applications before their release, while considering possible placebo effects. Furthermore, they advise technology companies to involve users and their expectations to a greater extent in the development process.

Author: Neurologica

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