How AI Ideas Affect the Creativity, Diversity, and Evolution of Human Ideas: Evidence From a Large, Dynamic Experiment

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Exposure to large language model output is rapidly increasing. How will seeing AI-generated ideas affect human ideas? We conducted an experiment (800+ participants, 40+ countries) where participants viewed creative ideas that were from ChatGPT or prior experimental participants and then brainstormed their own idea. We varied the number of AI-generated examples (none, low, or high exposure) and if the examples were labeled as ‘AI’ (disclosure). Our dynamic experiment design — ideas from prior participants in an experimental condition are used as stimuli for future participants in the same experimental condition — mimics the interdependent process of cultural creation: creative ideas are built upon prior ideas. Hence, we capture the compounding effects of having LLMs ‘in the culture loop’. We find that high AI exposure (but not low AI exposure) did not affect the creativity of individual ideas but did increase the average amount and rate of change of collective idea diversity. AI made ideas different, not better. There were no main effects of disclosure. We also found that self-reported creative people were less influenced by knowing an idea was from AI, and that participants were more likely to knowingly adopt AI ideas when the task was difficult. Our findings suggest that introducing AI ideas into society may increase collective diversity but not individual creativity.

Ryan Watkins