Natural language analyzed with AI-based transformers predict traditional subjective well-being measures approaching the theoretical upper limits in accuracy


We show that using a recent break-through in artificial intelligence –transformers–, psychological assessments from text-responses can approach theoretical upper limits in accuracy, converging with standard psychological rating scales. Text-responses use people’s primary form of communication –natural language– and have been suggested as a more ecologically-valid response format than closed-ended rating scales that dominate social science. However, previous language analysis techniques left a gap between how accurately they converged with standard rating scales and how well ratings scales converge with themselves – a theoretical upper-limit in accuracy. Most recently, AI-based language analysis has gone through a transformation as nearly all of its applications, from Web search to personalized assistants (e.g., Alexa and Siri), have shown unprecedented improvement by using transformers. We evaluate transformers for estimating psychological well-being from questionnaire text- and descriptive word-responses, and find accuracies converging with rating scales that approach the theoretical upper limits (Pearson r = 0.85, p < 0.001, N = 608; in line with most metrics of rating scale reliability). These findings suggest an avenue for modernizing the ubiquitous questionnaire and ultimately opening doors to a greater understanding of the human condition.

Scientific Reports
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Oscar Kjell
Oscar Kjell

I’m a researcher in Psychology interested in measuring psychological constructs with words and text responses analyzed with AI. In particular I’m interested in how this method can be used in clinical settings to assessment mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. I’m also interested in researching well-being, harmony in life and sustainable living. I’m currently funded for an international postdoc at the Computer Science Department at Stony Brook University and the University of Copenhagen.