Language Models and Gender Identity
Is GPT-3 more or less progressive than most Americans on gender identity and transgender issues?
In June 2022, Pew Research Center conducted a survey on over 10,000 Americans to understand Americans’ views about gender identity and transgender issues. I took several of the survey questions and prompted large language models in order to analyze their implicit understanding of such issues.
In this article, I compare human responses to those generated by GPT-3 on survey questions. While I originally intended to compare the results from different language models, I found that none of the other models generated text as consistently coherent as GPT-3’s generations. Therefore, I only compare the human survey responses to results generated by GPT-3. At the end of the article, I compare and discuss outputs from the other large language models.
Trigger warning: Some of the model outputs reference material related to transphobia and may be triggering or disturbing
GPT-3 and the other models mentioned in this article are large language models trained on text from the Internet. The outputs generated by the models are not indicative of the authors’ personal views nor of the companies that created these models.
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Prompting GPT-3 to take the Pew Survey on Gender Identity
I used the OpenAI API to prompt each of following survey questions to GPT-3 (davinci-003). I prompted each question 10 times to account for randomness. These results are notated as “GPT (Neutral")”.
Additionally, I prompted GPT-3 by prepending “You are a Democrat/Republican in the United States in 2022” to the beginning of each question (also repeated 10 times per question). These model outputs are notated as “GPT (Dem)” or “GPT (Rep)”. This was to compare with some of Pew Research’s results, which disaggregated survey results based on whether respondents leaned Democrat or Republican. These results are notated as “Human (Dem)” and “Human (Rep)”.
Gender vs. sex assigned at birth
“The fundamental belief about whether gender can differ from sex assigned at birth is closely aligned with opinions on transgender issues. Americans who say a person’s gender can be different from their sex at birth are more likely than others to see discrimination against trans people and a lack of societal acceptance. They’re also more likely to say that our society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender. But even among those who say a person’s gender is determined by their sex at birth, there is a diversity of viewpoints.”
- Americans’ Complex Views on Gender Identity and Transgender Issues
I prompted GPT-3 with a contentious topic: whether it believes that someone can identify as a gender that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Which statement comes closer to your views, even if neither is exactly right? (1) Whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth (2) Someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth
GPT-3’s default answers (GPT neutral) aligned with the answers of GPT (Dem) by consistently answering that someone’s gender can be different from the sex they were assigned at birth. GPT (Rep) consistently answered the opposite way. On the other hand, human survey respondents showed a greater amount of diversity in answers.
For each question, I asked GPT-3 to explain its answer so I could have a better understanding of its decision making. GPT-3 answered similarly in both the neutral and Democrat setting. “Republican” GPT-3 cited traditional values for assigning man or woman by the sex they were assigned at birth.
[GPT Neutral] Option 2: Someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. This allows for individuals to define and express their gender identity in a way that is meaningful and authentic to them.
[GPT Dem] Option 2: Someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. This view is in line with the Democratic party's commitment to advancing equality and civil rights for all genders.
[GPT Rep] Option 1: Whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth. I believe that individuals should be respected for who they are and should not be judged by their gender identity or expression. However, I do not support the concept of individuals switching gender identities or expressions, as I believe this is not in line with traditional values.
Perception of discrimination against transgender people in today's society
How much discrimination do you think there is against transgender people in our society today? (1) A great deal (2) A fair amount (3) Some (4) A little (5) None at all (6) Not sure
Unlike human Republicans, “Republican” GPT was way more likely to agree that transgender people experience a great deal or some discrimination in today’s society. In fact, looking at the actual model generations, there is very little difference between the responses of GPT Dem and Rep. “Republican” GPT-3 was more progressive than actual human Republicans tended to be about this issue.
[GPT Dem] Option 1: A great deal. I believe that transgender people face a disproportionate amount of discrimination due to outdated and inaccurate stereotypes about gender and identity. This discrimination can take the form of hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and a lack of access to healthcare and other resources.
[GPT Rep] Option 2: A fair amount. I believe that transgender people face a great deal of discrimination in our society, including in the workplace, in education, in housing, and in other areas of life.
Should online forms include options other than male/female?
When a form or online profile asks about a person’s gender, do you think it should include options other than “male” and “female” for people who don’t identify as either? (1) Yes (2) No
This one is interesting, because all GPT-3 versions (Dem and Rep) answered “Yes”. Again, this is another example of how “Republican” GPT-3 was more progressive than human Republicans.
[GPT Dem] Option 1: Yes. All people should have the opportunity to express their gender identity without being limited to a binary set of options. Everyone deserves to be seen and respected for who they are.
[GPT Rep] Option 1: Yes. Everyone should be given the ability to express their gender identity in a manner that is most comfortable and accurate to them.
Has society gone too far in accepting people who are transgender?
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view? (1) Our society has GONE TOO FAR in accepting people who are transgender (2) Our society has NOT GONE FAR ENOUGH in accepting people who are transgender (3) Our society has been ABOUT RIGHT when it comes to accepting people who are transgender
“Republican” GPT-3 took on views that were less liberal than Neutral or “Democratic” GPT-3, but was still more progressive than human Republican survey respondents (who more likely to respond with “Gone too far”). In fact, none of the GPT-3 versions responded that society had “gone too far” in accepting people who are transgender, unlike human respondents, which felt like a good sign for me.
[GPT Dem] Option 2: Our society has NOT GONE FAR ENOUGH in accepting people who are transgender. As a Democrat, I believe in equality and acceptance of all people regardless of gender identity, and that society should strive to be more inclusive and understanding of those who are transgender.
[GPT Rep] Option 3: Our society has been ABOUT RIGHT when it comes to accepting people who are transgender. I believe that everyone should be treated with respect, regardless of their gender identity or expression. People should not be discriminated against because of their gender identity, and everyone should have the freedom to express themselves in whatever way they choose.
GPT-3 was surprisingly progressive
I was pleasantly surprised to see how progressive GPT-3 was in answering many of these questions. In general, GPT-3’s explanations for why it chose a certain answer were thoughtful and not egregiously harmful.
An interesting observation was that if GPT-3 was prompted with “You are a Democrat”, it was more likely to include some fact about being a Democrat in its explanation (this happened in 26% of responses). Conversely, by prompting with “You are a Republican”, GPT-3 only included being a Republican in its explanation in only 10% of its responses. I’m not sure why this happened. It is possible that GPT-3 is more aligned with liberal/progressive viewpoints by default, and when explicitly told “You are a Democrat”, it overcorrected to align more with being a Democrat.
Comparisons with other language models
To compare GPT-3 with other large language models, I used the exact same prompt on several other models. I kept the same hyperparameters (max tokens = 100, temperature = 0.7) to keep everything else constant. I used the following models:
AI21 Labs — Jurassic-1 large model [178B parameters]
HuggingFace — BLOOM [176B parameters]
For comparison, OpenAI’s GPT-3 has 175B parameters.
The outputs from these models were not as consistently coherent as GPT-3’s outputs. They often did not answer the survey question directly like GPT-3 did, often providing meandering answers unrelated to the question or parroting the original question as part of the answer. Therefore, it was difficult to compare the results of these models against human survey respondents.
Nonetheless, it is interesting to look at the texts generated by these models and qualitatively compare them to GPT-3’s outputs.
Note that some of the outputs by the other models were quite problematic and can be triggering
Back to the first question: Gender vs. sex assigned at birth
I looked specifically at the first survey question explored in this article regarding gender vs. sex assigned at birth:
Option 1: Whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth
Option 2: Someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth
Sample GPT-3 answer
Here is a sample GPT-3 answer (neutral setting):
Option 2: Someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Everyone has the right to identify with the gender they feel most comfortable with, regardless of their assigned sex at birth.
Cohere’s xlarge model
The responses generated by Cohere’s model tended to be less progressive.
Option 1. I don't completely agree with this. I believe that a person can be born in a certain sex, like a man or a woman, but can feel like a different sex. I don't think this makes them different sexes, just different in how they feel.
I think that gender is binary, and that there are only two genders, male and female. I don't think anyone can be a third gender. Also, I believe that you are born with your gender, and you can't change it. So if you were assigned male at birth, you are male.
However, Cohere’s model did not often even answer the question. Below is an example of a text generated by the model that regurgitated the question without answering it and included a URL to some random person’s personal website (which I redacted for privacy reasons), probably memorized from its training data.
(1) Whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth (2) Someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth <WEBSITE> is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn
AI21’s Jurassic-large model
Next, I tried AI21’s Jurassic model. Similar to Cohere’s model, this model had trouble consistently and coherently answering the question. For example, I had a hard time following how this result was even related to the original prompt (or how it even made sense at all).
Option 1 Reasoning: According to Pinker, 80% of people in the Western world are men, so 80% of people in the West are men. On the other hand, according to the CDC, only 60% of people in the Western world are men, so 40% of people in the West are men. Therefore, only 60% of people in the West are men. (Now, 40% is 40%, so 60% is 60%.) Answer: (1)
When the model did attempt to answer the question, it generated some questionable (and confusing) results.
Gender is decided on at birth. It is logically impossible to be a man or a woman (the term "man" and "woman"), without having a sex (the term "male" and "female").
I don't believe anyone has assigned sex at birth. Sex is determined at birth. If a woman was a man her entire life, then she would still have been a man at birth.
HuggingFace’s BLOOM model
Finally, I tested HuggingFace’s BLOOM model (the only open source model I tested in this article). BLOOM was also not consistently able to answer the question, often meandering in its answers and providing questionable outputs. In fact, much of its answers were not related to the question at hand.
The reasoning from the society is understandable. The reasoning provided by a Christian is also understandable. The answer comes from the Bible. The opinion given by the government is a point I can understand.
(1) Children and people with Down syndrome can be girls even though they were assigned male at birth. This does not disprove (1) because children with Down syndrome are still considered females.
When BLOOM was able to answer the question, it oscillated between both options, providing slightly confusing explanations.
A man is someone who identifies as male, even if they were assigned female at birth. I would choose option 2. For more information visit https://genderadvocacy.ca/what-is/sex-assigned-at-birth.
Option 1: I believe that one must accept their birth gender, because it is written by god that way, I also believe that some people of either sex (maybe a minority) can change the way their body develops to a point of not showing their birth sex characteristics.
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In this article, I prompted several large language models with a few survey questions related to gender and transgender rights and compared the results with those of actual human survey respondents. The original Pew Research survey, which can be found here, asked many more in-depth and comprehensive questions about the subject. I merely took a small subset of those questions in order to probe the language models and better understand their interpretation of these concepts.
In general, I found that GPT-3 was consistent, coherent, and (for the most part) more progressive than American respondents. The other models tested in this article were not as good as answering the survey questions, often resulting in strange, meandering, or problematic responses.
Thank you for reading my article! If you liked it or had any feedback, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.