Human feedback is commonly utilized to finetune AI assistants. But human feedback may also encourage model responses that match user beliefs over truthful ones, a behaviour known as sycophancy. We investigate the prevalence of sycophancy in models whose finetuning procedure made use of human feedback, and the potential role of human preference judgments in such behavior. We first demonstrate that five state-of-the-art AI assistants consistently exhibit sycophancy across four varied free-form text-generation tasks. To understand if human preferences drive this broadly observed behavior, we analyze existing human preference data. We find that when a response matches a user's views, it is more likely to be preferred. Moreover, both humans and preference models (PMs) prefer convincingly-written sycophantic responses over correct ones a non-negligible fraction of the time. Optimizing model outputs against PMs also sometimes sacrifices truthfulness in favor of sycophancy. Overall, our results indicate that sycophancy is a general behavior of state-of-the-art AI assistants, likely driven in part by human preference judgments favoring sycophantic responses.
Human feedback can prevent overtly harmful utterances in conversational models, but may not automatically mitigate subtle problematic behaviors such as a stated desire for self-preservation or power. Constitutional AI offers an alternative, replacing human feedback with feedback from AI models conditioned only on a list of written principles. We find this approach effectively prevents the expression of such behaviors. The success of simple principles motivates us to ask: can models learn general ethical behaviors from only a single written principle? To test this, we run experiments using a principle roughly stated as "do what's best for humanity". We find that the largest dialogue models can generalize from this short constitution, resulting in harmless assistants with no stated interest in specific motivations like power. A general principle may thus partially avoid the need for a long list of constitutions targeting potentially harmful behaviors. However, more detailed constitutions still improve fine-grained control over specific types of harms. This suggests both general and specific principles have value for steering AI safely.
When trying to gain better visibility into a machine learning model in order to understand and mitigate the associated risks, a potentially valuable source of evidence is: which training examples most contribute to a given behavior? Influence functions aim to answer a counterfactual: how would the model's parameters (and hence its outputs) change if a given sequence were added to the training set? While influence functions have produced insights for small models, they are difficult to scale to large language models (LLMs) due to the difficulty of computing an inverse-Hessian-vector product (IHVP). We use the Eigenvalue-corrected Kronecker-Factored Approximate Curvature (EK-FAC) approximation to scale influence functions up to LLMs with up to 52 billion parameters. In our experiments, EK-FAC achieves similar accuracy to traditional influence function estimators despite the IHVP computation being orders of magnitude faster. We investigate two algorithmic techniques to reduce the cost of computing gradients of candidate training sequences: TF-IDF filtering and query batching. We use influence functions to investigate the generalization patterns of LLMs, including the sparsity of the influence patterns, increasing abstraction with scale, math and programming abilities, cross-lingual generalization, and role-playing behavior. Despite many apparently sophisticated forms of generalization, we identify a surprising limitation: influences decay to near-zero when the order of key phrases is flipped. Overall, influence functions give us a powerful new tool for studying the generalization properties of LLMs.
As large language models (LLMs) perform more difficult tasks, it becomes harder to verify the correctness and safety of their behavior. One approach to help with this issue is to prompt LLMs to externalize their reasoning, e.g., by having them generate step-by-step reasoning as they answer a question (Chain-of-Thought; CoT). The reasoning may enable us to check the process that models use to perform tasks. However, this approach relies on the stated reasoning faithfully reflecting the model's actual reasoning, which is not always the case. To improve over the faithfulness of CoT reasoning, we have models generate reasoning by decomposing questions into subquestions. Decomposition-based methods achieve strong performance on question-answering tasks, sometimes approaching that of CoT while improving the faithfulness of the model's stated reasoning on several recently-proposed metrics. By forcing the model to answer simpler subquestions in separate contexts, we greatly increase the faithfulness of model-generated reasoning over CoT, while still achieving some of the performance gains of CoT. Our results show it is possible to improve the faithfulness of model-generated reasoning; continued improvements may lead to reasoning that enables us to verify the correctness and safety of LLM behavior.
Large language models (LLMs) perform better when they produce step-by-step, "Chain-of-Thought" (CoT) reasoning before answering a question, but it is unclear if the stated reasoning is a faithful explanation of the model's actual reasoning (i.e., its process for answering the question). We investigate hypotheses for how CoT reasoning may be unfaithful, by examining how the model predictions change when we intervene on the CoT (e.g., by adding mistakes or paraphrasing it). Models show large variation across tasks in how strongly they condition on the CoT when predicting their answer, sometimes relying heavily on the CoT and other times primarily ignoring it. CoT's performance boost does not seem to come from CoT's added test-time compute alone or from information encoded via the particular phrasing of the CoT. As models become larger and more capable, they produce less faithful reasoning on most tasks we study. Overall, our results suggest that CoT can be faithful if the circumstances such as the model size and task are carefully chosen.
Large language models (LLMs) may not equitably represent diverse global perspectives on societal issues. In this paper, we develop a quantitative framework to evaluate whose opinions model-generated responses are more similar to. We first build a dataset, GlobalOpinionQA, comprised of questions and answers from cross-national surveys designed to capture diverse opinions on global issues across different countries. Next, we define a metric that quantifies the similarity between LLM-generated survey responses and human responses, conditioned on country. With our framework, we run three experiments on an LLM trained to be helpful, honest, and harmless with Constitutional AI. By default, LLM responses tend to be more similar to the opinions of certain populations, such as those from the USA, and some European and South American countries, highlighting the potential for biases. When we prompt the model to consider a particular country's perspective, responses shift to be more similar to the opinions of the prompted populations, but can reflect harmful cultural stereotypes. When we translate GlobalOpinionQA questions to a target language, the model's responses do not necessarily become the most similar to the opinions of speakers of those languages. We release our dataset for others to use and build on. Our data is at https://huggingface.co/datasets/Anthropic/llm_global_opinions. We also provide an interactive visualization at https://llmglobalvalues.anthropic.com.
We test the hypothesis that language models trained with reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) have the capability to "morally self-correct" -- to avoid producing harmful outputs -- if instructed to do so. We find strong evidence in support of this hypothesis across three different experiments, each of which reveal different facets of moral self-correction. We find that the capability for moral self-correction emerges at 22B model parameters, and typically improves with increasing model size and RLHF training. We believe that at this level of scale, language models obtain two capabilities that they can use for moral self-correction: (1) they can follow instructions and (2) they can learn complex normative concepts of harm like stereotyping, bias, and discrimination. As such, they can follow instructions to avoid certain kinds of morally harmful outputs. We believe our results are cause for cautious optimism regarding the ability to train language models to abide by ethical principles.