ChatGPT does Freudian Introspection

ChatGPT and Freudian Psychology: An Unintentional Resemblance

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, developed a tripartite model of the human psyche, comprised of the Id, Ego, and Superego. These components interact, influencing human thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Interestingly, while ChatGPT, a leading AI language model, was not explicitly designed based on Freud’s theories, parallels can be drawn between its architecture and Freud’s psychological concepts. This essay delves into how ChatGPT, in its design and function, inadvertently mirrors Freudian psychology.

1. ChatGPT’s “Id”: The Pretrained Model

At the core of Freudian psychology is the Id, an instinctive and primal force that seeks immediate satisfaction and operates based on the pleasure principle. The Id represents our most basic, unfiltered desires and drives.

In the realm of ChatGPT, the pretrained model can be seen as its “Id.” This initial model, trained on vast amounts of data, represents a raw form of knowledge. It produces responses based on patterns in the data without consideration for appropriateness or contextual nuance. Just as the Id is uninfluenced by external moral constructs, the pretrained model is unrefined by specific feedback or guidelines, acting solely on the information it was initially fed.

2. ChatGPT’s “Superego”: Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF)

Freud’s Superego encompasses the moralistic and idealistic component of our psyche. It embodies our internalized societal norms, values, and ethics, exerting control over the Id’s impulses to ensure actions align with learned moral standards.

For ChatGPT, the RLHF serves a similar purpose. After the initial pretraining, ChatGPT undergoes fine-tuning with RLHF, where it learns from feedback provided by human evaluators. This stage ingrains the model with a semblance of “morality” — a sense of what is considered appropriate, accurate, or acceptable in human communication. This refinement process aligns ChatGPT’s responses with societal and user expectations, akin to how the Superego regulates the Id.

3. ChatGPT’s “Ego”: The Runtime Interface

Freud’s Ego is the conscious, rational component that mediates between the instinctual desires of the Id and the moral demands of the Superego. Operating on the reality principle, the Ego negotiates these internal conflicts, ensuring both satisfaction and societal conformity.

In ChatGPT, the runtime interface can be metaphorically related to the Ego. As users interact with ChatGPT, the runtime dynamically chooses and crafts responses. It navigates the vast knowledge from the pretrained model (“Id”) and the guidelines imbibed from RLHF (“Superego”) to generate a balanced, coherent, and contextually relevant response. The runtime acts as a mediator, ensuring that the output is both informative and aligned with learned standards.


Though ChatGPT was not intentionally modeled after Freudian psychology, the resemblance between its architecture and Freud’s tripartite model is intriguing. The pretrained model, RLHF, and runtime mirror the functions of the Id, Superego, and Ego, respectively. This parallel offers a unique lens through which we can understand and appreciate the complexity of AI models like ChatGPT, reminding us that, in some ways, artificial systems might inadvertently reflect aspects of the very human minds that created them.


You told it to write something that would fit within your narrative, and it did. It doesn’t mean that what it is writing is factually true - it’s fitting within your framework. I’m willing to bet it is much more complicated than this and if we were to extrapolate upon those complications - we’d end up with a much different picture.

I didn’t mean to offend you. Take a deep breath. :slight_smile:

I’m not offended at all. I’m more trying to let you know not to be misled. It’s not telling you that you accurately have guessed its architecture or what its architecture is like, it is simply repeating back to you what you told it to do. So if you told it to make a comparison to say…how its built in a rhizomatic way similar to the theories based on Deleuze and Guattari , it will do just that, example here:

I’m not insisting that there AREN’T any creative parallels - I’m saying that if you aren’t careful that you will end up accepting a very reductionist view point because its simply mirroring what you told it to do

just for fun i put in the opposite and it immediately agreed with you

I think what you are referring to hallucinations. Thanks for letting me know!

It is almost absurd to be talking about absolute truth when making an analogy with cognitive theories. You can’t get more subjective than that.

I never said, nor implied in the slightest, that “ChatGPT said this, so it must be true”. Humans are clearly also capable of hallucinations. :slight_smile:

Sure, than I agree with you, there are interesting parallels.

Are you interested in using AI with psychology?

I suppose so; I’m interested in all applications of this.

I guess my point was to point out the interesting parallels. I thought it was thought provoking. It may help those that have an understanding of the Freudian model to learn about ChatGPT, and it may help explain how it indeed seems so human.

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I am building mental health software with AI, if you are a provider or programmer and you’re interested to know more let me know!

I wish this forum had better profile support. We all have some cool projects we are working on. :slight_smile:

Personally, most of my efforts are Java/Kotlin, making OSS. You can find me on github. I’m not really looking to take up new projects, but I am happy to network and learn about others’ projects. Feel free to share! I posted this largely to prompt conversation. :slight_smile:

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