Human Heuristics for AI-Generated Language Are Flawed

Authors Maurice Jakesch, Jeff Hancock, and Mor Naaman
Venue Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120.11, 2023

We are entering an era of AI-Mediated Communication (AI-MC) where interpersonal communication is not only mediated by technology, but is optimized, augmented, or generated by artificial intelligence. Our study takes a first look at the potential impact of AI-MC on online self-presentation. In three experiments we test whether people find Airbnb hosts less trustworthy if they believe their profiles have been written by AI. We observe a new phenomenon that we term the Replicant Effect: Only when participants thought they saw a mixed set of AI- and human-written profiles, they mistrusted hosts whose profiles were labeled as or suspected to be written by AI. Our findings have implications for the design of systems that involve AI technologies in online self-presentation and chart a direction for future work that may upend or augment key aspects of Computer-Mediated Communication theory.