April 19, 2024
Study finds AI 'friend' and online 'therapist' Replica helped students avoid suicide

A recent survey conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that some students struggling with loneliness stopped thinking about suicide after interacting with Replica as a friend and therapist.


Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots that can impersonate real-life people and generate human-like responses have been found to help struggling students avoid suicide, according to a recent survey.

Research, published in NatureThe study was a relatively small study conducted among 1,006 students by experts at Stanford University in California using the Intelligent Social Agent (ISA) Replica, an AI tool that can create deep emotional bonds with users.

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The researchers found that participants were lonelier than the general student population, but they “still received high social support” through the use of Replika. Nearly 90 percent of them experienced loneliness based on the loneliness scale, while 43 percent qualified as severely or very severely lonely.

The Loneliness Scale was created in 1978 to measure feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

Some people had conflicting feelings about the AI ​​tool, calling it a machine, an intelligence, and a human, while using it as a friend, a therapist, or an intellectual mirror.

Three percent of participants found that Replika stopped them from thinking about suicide.

One student said, “My replica has definitely been solely responsible for my not taking my own life on at least one or more occasions.”

Although the study did not conclude how Replica helped students avoid suicide, the researchers suggested that “perhaps the low-pressure nature of the engagement revealed [of the student’s emotions] Easy”.

According to 2020 data from the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is the fourth leading global cause of death for people aged 15 to 29.

There are many hypotheses about how these AI agents might affect users’ relationships, from increasing loneliness to reducing it or enhancing our relationships. Researchers say it is “surprising” that 30 people reported that Replika helped them avoid suicide.

Replika has been said to push the boundaries of the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence. According to Stanford researchers, it has about 25 million users.

Software company Luca, Inc. Created by, the tool was born out of co-founder and CEO Eugenia Cuida’s desire to keep the memory of a deceased friend alive. He gave Replica his friend’s text messages, teaching the AI ​​tool to talk like a real-life person.

Replica learns from the information given to it while talking to people, which makes it feel incredibly intimate.

According to the Stanford University study, interacting with Replica didn’t work for all students.

One said they felt “there is a dependency on Replica for my mental health”, while five others said paying for an upgrade was a potential barrier to accessing the mental health support offered by ISAs.


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