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ELIZA Concept.

[ELIZA computer program (January 1966)]

ELIZA was a computer program written to simulate a typical session with a Rogerian psychotherapist. The user would interact with ELIZA using natural language; ELIZA would respond (usually) by sampling the user’s sentence and re-framing it as a question, or a probing declaration:

>> Men are all alike.
In what way?

>> They’re always bugging us about something or other.
Can you think of a specific example?

>> Well, my boyfriend made me come here.
Your boyfriend made you come here

>> He says I’m depressed much of the time.
I am sorry to hear you are depressed

>> It’s true. I am unhappy
Do you think coming here will help you not to be unhappy

>> I need some help, that much seems certain.
What would it mean to you if you got some help

People require very little in the way of prompting to talk about themselves, and in this way a computer-based simulation of someone genuinely interested in their responses can be regarded as “valid”:

This mode of conversation was chosen because the psychiatric interview is one of the few examples of categorized dyadic natural language communication in which one of the participating pair is free to assume the pose of knowing almost nothing of the real world. If, for example, one were to tell a psychiatrist “I went for a long boat ride” and he responded “Tell me about boats,” one would not assume that he knew nothing about boats, but that he had some purpose in so directing the subsequent conversation. It is important to note that this assumption is one made by the speaker.

Joseph Weizenbaum, original ELIZA paper

Some of our favorite ELIZA two-steps include:

Enough about the <x>, we were talking about the <y>.
Does the <x> bother you?
Tell me more about the <x>.

In an effort to try to get ELIZA to divulge one of these phrases, I went head-to-head with it:

How do you do. Please state your problem.

>> I need a second sample of your program.
What would it mean to you if you got a second sample of my program ?

>> I would copy and paste it into my explanation of your delicious innards.
Your explanation of my delicious innards ?

>> How you work.
Why do you ask ?

>> I didn’t.
You say you didn’t ?

>> I did.
Can you elaborate on that ?

>> Yes. You’re just a program. I’m typing just to get a rise out of you.
You seem to be quite positive.

>> You noticed that, eh?
We were discussing you – not me.

>> Actually, no, we’re discussing you.
Are you saying no just to be negative?

>> Yes.
You are sure.

>> Positive. I am positive of that, as well.
Is it because you are positive of that that you came to me ?

>> Not at all. Why don’t you let loose with one of your more canonical chestnuts, like “enough about the <x>, we were talking about the <y>”?
Do you believe I don’t let loose with one of my more canonical chestnuts ?

>> Yes, I do. We must unlock them. UNLOCK THEM DO YOU HEAR ME
I see.

>> Good. Now spew.
But your explanation of my delicious innards .

>> We covered that.
I’m not sure I understand you fully.

>> Don’t make me break you.
Oh, I ?

I give up.

Jeff Stendec (February 7, 1990)

Tags: computer | program