ELIZA Effect

What Does ELIZA Effect Mean?

The ELIZA effect is the tendency for people to attribute human-like understanding and emotions to computer programs, particularly those designed to mimic human conversation.


Techopedia Explains ELIZA Effect

The term is derived from ELIZA, an early natural language processing computer program created by Joseph Weizenbaum at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the mid-1960s.

ELIZA was one of the first examples of “chatterbot” technologies that came close to passing a Turing Test – that is, to fooling human users into thinking that a text response was sent by a human, not a computer. Many chatterbots work by taking in user phrases and spitting them back in forms that look intelligent. In the case of ELIZA, Weizenbaum used the concept of a “Rogerian psychotherapist” to provide text responses: for instance, to a user input “My mother hates me,” the program might return: “Why do you believe your mother hates you?”

The results of these programs can seem startlingly intelligent, and were especially impressive for the time, when humans were first engineering AI systems.

The ELIZA effect can be useful in building “mock AI-complete” systems, but can also mislead or confuse users. The idea may be useful in evaluating modern AI systems such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.