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Using the Tools of Cognitive Science to Understand the Behavior of Large Language Models

Speaker: Tom Griffiths

Date: Friday, March 15, 2024 Time: 2:15pm
Location: SEC , link opens in a new tab/window Room: SEC LL2.224

Join us for a talk by Tom Griffiths, Professor of Psychology and Computer Science at Princeton University. This talk is part of the Kempner Seminar Series, a research-level seminar series on recent advances in the field.

Abstract: Large language models have been found to have surprising capabilities, even what have been called “sparks of artificial general intelligence.” However, understanding these models involves some significant challenges: their internal structure is extremely complicated, their training data is often opaque, and getting access to the underlying mechanisms is becoming increasingly difficult. As a consequence, researchers often have to resort to studying these systems based on their behavior. This situation is, of course, one that cognitive scientists are very familiar with — human brains are complicated systems trained on opaque data and typically difficult to study mechanistically. In this talk I will summarize some of the tools of cognitive science that are useful for understanding the behavior of large language models. Specifically, I will talk about how thinking about different levels of analysis (and Bayesian inference) can help us understand some behaviors that don’t seem particularly intelligent, how tasks like similarity judgment can be used to probe internal representations, and how using techniques from social psychology can reveal biases in systems that have been trained to be unbiased.