Psychiatry Research

ChatGPT and Bard exhibit spontaneous citation fabrication during psychiatry literature search

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ChatGPT (Generative Pre-Trained Transformer) is a large language model (LLM), which comprises a neural network that has learned information and patterns of language use from large amounts of text on the internet. ChatGPT, introduced by OpenAI, responds to human queries in a conversational manner. Here, we aimed to assess whether ChatGPT could reliably produce accurate references to supplement the literature search process. We describe our March 2023 exchange with ChatGPT, which generated thirty-five citations, two of which were real. 12 citations were similar to actual manuscripts (e.g., titles with incorrect author lists, journals, or publication years) and the remaining 21, while plausible, were in fact a pastiche of multiple existent manuscripts. In June 2023, we re-tested ChatGPT's performance and compared it to that of Google's GPT counterpart, Bard 2.0. We investigated performance in English, as well as in Spanish and Italian. Fabrications made by LLMs, including erroneous citations, have been called “hallucinations”; we discuss reasons for which this is a misnomer. Furthermore, we describe potential explanations for citation fabrication by GPTs, as well as measures being taken to remedy this issue, including reinforcement learning. Our results underscore that output from conversational LLMs should be verified.