Metacognition and embedded models within GPT-3

Metacognition: thinking about thought
Embedded models: Things you capital-K Know how to do through practice, like driving a car or typing on a keyboard.

As I’m working on the next iteration of my cognitive architecture, I’m realizing that artificial cognition will need to have the flexibility that human brains have. That is to say that we can dynamically conjure up mental models to address any given task. In neuroscience terms, this is called building a task set. When you jump in your car, your brain automatically dredges up procedures and facts about how to safely and effectively operate the car. With enough practice, most of those behaviors become automatic. Complex tasks require us to use external resources, like how homebuilders use blueprints to remember the design. Even so, homebuilders have a mental model about how to use blueprints and how to translate those designs into physical constructions.

GPT-3 clearly has many models already embedded. You can ask it about any formal protocol, like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and it can perform it. Like a well-trained therapist, GPT-3 has CBT as an embedded model. However, if you just use GPT-3 as a chatbot, it won’t automatically know to recruit its models about CBT, DBT, or any other framework. It will just give generic advice. But if you change the prompt to include the name of the model, the output changes drastically.

I’ve been working on some metacognitive services, such as using prompt-chaining to first ask “Write some google search queries that would help in this situation.” (In this case, a “google search” is a particular kind of mental model that we use to go information foraging. GPT-3 has good information seeking instincts so long as you use the right model). After I get a list of google search terms to help with a situation, I think ask GPT-3 to provide its own answers, thus extracting more embedded information.

So instead of writing a prompt like “What Google search might help here?” as the first step of metacognition, it might help to ask “What mental models would help here?” or “What formal protocols would help here?” From there, prompt-chaining can be used to coax GPT-3 into using more sophisticated mental models to help users.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

Write some advice about dealing with anxiety:

  1. Identify what is making you anxious. Once you know what is causing your anxiety, you can begin to address it.
  2. Start by slowly and gradually exposing yourself to the thing that is making you anxious. This will help you build up a tolerance to it and eventually lessen your anxiety.
  3. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. These can help you calm down when you are feeling anxious.
  4. Seek professional help if your anxiety is severe or is interfering with your daily life. A therapist can help you learn how to cope with your anxiety and work through the underlying issues that are causing it.

Now, let’s repeat this but specify the mental model (or protocol) of CBT:

Write a tutorial of how to deal with anxiety with CBT:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for anxiety. CBT focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. The goal of CBT is to help you manage your anxiety and develop healthy coping skills.
Here are some tips for dealing with anxiety with CBT:

  1. Identify your triggers. What situations or events make you feel anxious? Once you know your triggers, you can start to work on addressing them.
  2. Challenge your negative thoughts. When you’re feeling anxious, you may have negative thoughts about yourself or the situation. These thoughts can contribute to your anxiety. Challenge these negative thoughts by asking yourself if they’re really true.
  3. Practice relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques can help you manage your anxiety. Try practices such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation.
  4. Address your avoidance behaviors. If you’re avoiding situations that make you anxious, you’re not giving yourself a chance to face your fears and learn that you can cope. Slowly start to expose yourself to the situations you’re avoiding.
  5. Use coping statements. Coping statements are positive statements that you can say to yourself when you’re feeling anxious. They can help you reframe your thinking and manage your anxiety. Some examples of coping statements include “I can handle this,” “I am safe,” or “I am strong.”
  6. Practice exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing yourself to the situations or objects that make you anxious. This can help you learn that you can cope with your anxiety and that your triggers are not as dangerous as you may think.
  7. Seek professional help. If you’re struggling to manage your anxiety on your own, seek professional help. A therapist can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety.

Notice how drastically the difference is between these two outputs? All parameters were the same. But by including the token “CBT” in the prompt, GPT-3 automatically recruited far more specific knowledge to help out.

Now, let’s see if we can get GPT-3 to connect a request for help from anxiety to the concept of CBT (or other frameworks):

What are some mental models, frameworks, or protocols to deal with anxiety?
Some mental models, frameworks, or protocols to deal with anxiety include:
-Identifying and challenging anxious thoughts
-Practicing relaxation techniques
-Exposure therapy
-Cognitive behavioral therapy

BOOM. First try. Now, it should be noted that GPT-3’s initial advice alludes to breathing exercises and exposure therapy, but the characteristics and quality of the replies are very different. Anxiety is also a very common topic discussed on the internet, so it might have gotten it right on accident.

So let’s ask something that will be a little more arcane.

What are some mental models, frameworks, or protocols to deal with conflict resolution?
The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, or TKI test, is a popular assessment tool for measuring an individual’s preferred method of dealing with conflict. The five conflict resolution styles identified by the TKI are:

  1. Accommodating: This style is characterized by a focus on preserving relationships and maintaining harmony. Individuals who use this style are typically more concerned with avoiding conflict than with winning arguments.
  2. Avoiding: This style is characterized by a complete avoidance of conflict. Individuals who use this style typically do not want to rock the boat and would rather sweep problems under the rug than confront them head-on.
  3. Competing: This style is characterized by a focus on winning at all costs. Individuals who use this style are typically more concerned with being right than with finding a resolution that is agreeable to all parties involved.
  4. Collaborating: This style is characterized by a focus on finding a solution that is acceptable to all parties involved. Individuals who use this style are typically more concerned with finding a win-win resolution than with being right or winning an argument.
  5. Compromising: This style is characterized by a focus on finding a resolution that is acceptable to all parties involved, even if it means that neither party gets everything they want. Individuals who use this style are typically more concerned with finding a middle ground than with being right or winning an argument.

Again, we can see that GPT-3 already possesses a formal protocol and framework for conflict. It likely understands more.

Thanks for the interesting post. It might be that a metacognition layer can be built around GPT3 to activate the right embedded models for different situations.

BTW, there is a series of books about mental models that might be helpful as reference for types of metacognition:
The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts

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