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Using ChatGPT to learn about social capital

ChatGPT is a useful platform to explore new subjects, but it’s not always reliable. It can be challenging to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate information, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the topic. Recently, I conducted a test on the accuracy of responses related to social capital, and unfortunately, a significant number of them were incorrect.

For example, I asked ChatGPT, “What is the cognitive dimension of social capital?”.

The response from ChatGPT emphasised the cognitive benefits derived from social relationships and networks. However, this is not the way the literature on social capital describes the cognitive dimension. The most commonly cited publication in the literature is Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998)[1], which describes it as resources providing shared representations, interpretations, and systems of meaning among parties.

The full response from ChatGPT was:

The cognitive dimension of social capital refers to the intellectual resources, knowledge, and skills that individuals acquire and develop through their social connections and interactions. It emphasizes the cognitive benefits derived from social relationships and networks.

Unlike other dimensions of social capital, such as structural or relational, which focus on the social structure or quality of relationships, the cognitive dimension emphasizes the cognitive and intellectual aspects of social interactions. It recognizes that social networks can provide access to valuable information, expertise, and knowledge that can enhance individuals’ cognitive abilities and problem-solving capabilities.

The cognitive dimension of social capital encompasses various elements:

Information Exchange: Social networks facilitate the exchange of information and knowledge among individuals. Through interactions with others, individuals can gain access to diverse perspectives, ideas, and information that can broaden their understanding and help them make more informed decisions.

Learning Opportunities: Social connections provide opportunities for learning from others. People can acquire new skills, knowledge, and expertise through observing, interacting, and collaborating with individuals who possess different areas of expertise or experiences.

Knowledge Sharing: Social networks allow for the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Individuals can contribute their own knowledge and expertise to the network and receive input and feedback from others, leading to mutual learning and knowledge creation.

Collective Intelligence: The cognitive dimension of social capital recognizes that groups or networks can collectively generate new insights, solutions, and innovations that surpass individual capabilities. Through collaboration and collective problem-solving, groups can leverage the diverse cognitive resources of their members to tackle complex challenges.

Cognitive Diversity: Social networks that encompass individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise can enhance cognitive diversity. This diversity can stimulate critical thinking, creativity, and innovation by exposing individuals to different ways of thinking and approaching problems.

Overall, the cognitive dimension of social capital highlights the intellectual benefits derived from social relationships. It emphasizes the importance of information exchange, learning, knowledge sharing, and collective intelligence within social networks, ultimately enhancing individuals’ cognitive capacities and problem-solving abilities.

I told ChatGPT that the explanation of the cognitive dimension of social capital is not consistent with the literature.

The response from ChatGPT was:

I apologize if my previous response did not align with the existing literature on the cognitive dimension of social capital. I appreciate your feedback and would be glad to provide a revised explanation based on a more accurate understanding. Could you please provide me with a brief summary or key points from the literature on the cognitive dimension of social capital? That way, I can ensure that my response aligns with the established scholarly understanding.

I provided ChatGPT with the following information from the literature:

The cognitive dimension of social capital is the resources providing shared representations, interpretations, and systems of meaning among parties. It is the cognitive schemes and systems of meaning as exhibited in common vocabulary and narratives. Cognitive social capital is the shared language and codes that provide the foundation for communication.

ChatGPT responded:

Thank you for providing the key points from the literature on the cognitive dimension of social capital. Based on these points, I can provide you with a revised explanation:

The cognitive dimension of social capital refers to the shared cognitive resources, such as shared representations, interpretations, and systems of meaning, that exist among individuals or groups within a social network. It encompasses the cognitive schemes, common vocabulary, and narratives that provide a foundation for effective communication and understanding.

In other words, cognitive social capital is built upon the shared language, codes, and mental frameworks that enable individuals to communicate and interpret information in a consistent and meaningful way. It facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and information within a social network, promoting mutual understanding and collaboration.

This cognitive dimension of social capital plays a crucial role in fostering social cohesion, cooperation, and collective action within a community or organization. By sharing a common understanding and interpretation of the world, individuals can more effectively coordinate their actions, align their goals, and solve problems together.

Overall, the cognitive dimension of social capital emphasizes the importance of shared cognitive resources, such as language, codes, and systems of meaning, in enabling effective communication, mutual understanding, and collective action within a social network or community.

This revised response is much more consistent with the literature on the cognitive dimension of social capital. ChatGPT’s initial response may have come from an article published in the literature. However, it is not consistent with the dominant established understanding.

This example highlights how people can unknowingly receive incorrect information from ChatGPT. This interaction and others like it will help to train the AI to improve its responses. But in the meantime, we need to be careful when we ask ChatGPT about topics we don’t know much about. It can be difficult to identify the correct from the incorrect.

Footnotes

  1. Nahapiet, Janine and Sumantra Ghoshal. 1998. “Social Capital, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage.” Academy of Management Review 23(2):242. ^

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