The Empathic Utility of GPT-4

Carlos E. Perez
Intuition Machine
Published in
13 min readJul 2, 2023



It’s extremely curious, revealing, and instructional that GPT-4 is very useful in helping us understand our emotions and how to deal with the world in a more empathic level. It’s as if we have at our fingertips an extremely powerful therapist that can lead us to become better versions of ourselves. Here are some investigations that exhibit this. Marked in bold is the original prompt. Italicized is the GPT-4 response (in markdown syntax). Links follow to explore the GPT-4 session further.

What are the distinct emotional and situational characteristics of the play Les Miserables that draws the viewers to be immersed in it. What sort of personality loves this kind of story and lyrics?

“Les Misérables,” originally a novel by Victor Hugo and later adapted into a renowned musical, is noted for its profound exploration of human emotions and social injustice in the backdrop of 19th-century France. Its emotional and situational characteristics that draw viewers include:

1. **High Emotional Intensity**: The story of “Les Misérables” deals with intense human emotions like love, despair, sacrifice, redemption, and the struggle for survival. These powerful sentiments are universally relatable and capture the audience’s hearts.

2. **Engaging Characters**: From the tormented ex-convict Jean Valjean seeking redemption, to the relentless Inspector Javert, to the innocent Cosette and the brave Eponine, the characters are rich, complex, and evoke empathy and engagement from the audience.

3. **Societal Themes**: The play extensively depicts the grim reality of poverty, social inequality, and struggle for justice. The characters’ situations echo broader societal issues, providing a profound commentary that is both thought-provoking and moving.

4. **Redemption and Hope**: Despite its often bleak settings, “Les Misérables” highlights the capacity for change, redemption, and hope. This message resonates with many viewers, who are drawn to the story’s inspirational undertones.

5. **Beautiful Music and Lyrics**: The musical’s songs are renowned for their lyrical beauty and emotional depth. They not only advance the story but also deepen our understanding of the characters and their feelings.

In terms of personality, people who appreciate “Les Misérables” can vary greatly. However, some general traits might include:

1. **Empathy**: Individuals who are empathetic, capable of understanding and sharing the feelings of others, may be more drawn to the emotional depth and character development in the play.

2. **Introspective**: Those who enjoy introspection, self-examination, and philosophical ideas may appreciate the themes of redemption, moral conflict, and societal justice prevalent in “Les Misérables.”

3. **Socially Aware**: Individuals interested in social issues might be attracted to the play’s themes of social inequality, justice, and societal change.

4. **Romantic**: The play’s romantic plotlines and its exploration of unrequited love, sacrifice, and passion could appeal to people with a more romantic disposition.

5. **Music Lovers**: Of course, those who enjoy music, particularly musical theatre, will likely appreciate the moving score and lyrics that accompany “Les Misérables.”

Remember, art and literature can appeal to a wide array of individuals for different reasons. People can find connection and meaning in “Les Misérables” that may not align with these generalized traits.

What are the distinct emotional and situational characteristics of the musical The Color Purple that draws the viewers to be immersed in it. What sort of personality loves this kind of story and lyrics?

“The Color Purple,” based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and later adapted into a musical, is a powerful narrative of resilience, personal growth, love, and redemption. Here are some of its most compelling emotional and situational characteristics:

1. **Strong Emotional Arc**: The main character, Celie, goes through an incredible journey from despair and subjugation to self-discovery, empowerment, and joy. This emotional arc allows audiences to deeply connect with her and her experiences.

2. **Realistic Characters and Relationships**: The characters in “The Color Purple” are multidimensional, displaying both strength and vulnerability. Relationships between characters are complex and develop over time, creating an immersive experience for viewers.

3. **Themes of Empowerment and Liberation**: The musical explores the transformation of women from being oppressed to becoming independent and self-empowered. These themes resonate with many viewers and provide an inspiring narrative.

4. **Examination of Racial and Gender Issues**: The story takes place in the early 20th century American South and directly confronts the intersectionality of racism and sexism. It provides a critical look at these societal issues, which is thought-provoking for audiences.

5. **Beautiful Score and Lyrics**: The music, which blends jazz, gospel, blues and African music, expresses the characters’ emotions, cultural roots, and life experiences. The powerful lyrics further deepen the emotional resonance of the story.

In terms of personality, individuals who might be drawn to “The Color Purple” could include:

1. **Empathy**: As with most character-driven narratives, empathetic individuals who can connect with the experiences and feelings of others may be more drawn to the story.

2. **Resilience**: Those who value resilience, personal growth, and overcoming adversity would likely appreciate Celie’s journey and the overall narrative of empowerment.

3. **Social Awareness**: Individuals who are conscious of societal issues, particularly regarding race and gender, may find the themes of the musical especially compelling.

4. **Appreciation for Music**: Those who enjoy a diverse range of musical genres, particularly gospel, blues, jazz, and African music, would likely be attracted to the score of “The Color Purple.”

5. **Believers in Love and Friendship**: The story highlights not only romantic love but also the power of sisterhood and friendship. Individuals who value these bonds may find the narrative deeply touching.

However, it’s important to note that individual responses to art can vary greatly. Different aspects of “The Color Purple” might resonate with different people, regardless of these generalized traits.

Create a table contrasting the emotional appeal of Les Miserable with that of the Color Purple. Emphasize the commonality and differences.

Sure, here’s a table that contrasts the emotional appeal of “Les Misérables” with that of “The Color Purple”:

| Emotional Appeal | Les Misérables | The Color Purple |
|: — — — — — — — — -|: — — — — — — — :|: — — — — — — — — :|
| **Main Themes** | Redemption, social injustice, sacrifice, love, and hope. | Empowerment, liberation, love, resilience, and personal growth. |
| **Characterization** | Characters deal with intense emotions in the backdrop of societal struggle, making them relatable and empathetic. | Characters are multidimensional, facing both internal and external battles. Relationships between characters evolve over time, adding depth to their emotional appeal. |
| **Music and Lyrics** | The score and lyrics further the narrative, deepen the emotional impact, and provide insight into the characters’ internal states. | The music is a blend of jazz, gospel, blues, and African music, which express the characters’ cultural roots and emotions. Lyrics enhance the emotional resonance. |
| **Societal Issues** | Focuses on poverty, social inequality, and the fight for justice in 19th-century France. | Explores intersectionality of racism and sexism in early 20th-century American South. |
| **Emotional Journey** | Evokes a sense of despair, but eventually offers hope and redemption, showing the capacity for change. | From despair and subjugation to liberation and joy, it depicts a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. |


1. Both musicals deal with intense emotions and profound themes, such as love, resilience, and the capacity for change.
2. They depict the struggles faced by their characters in a societal context, addressing social issues relevant to their respective time periods.
3. Both use music and lyrics to augment the emotional depth and resonance of their narratives.
4. The narratives of both musicals follow a journey from despair to hope and redemption.


  1. “Les Misérables” largely focuses on the theme of redemption and the fight against social inequality in the backdrop of post-revolutionary France, while “The Color Purple” centers on personal growth, empowerment, and racial and gender inequality in early 20th-century American South.
    2. The emotional journey in “Les Misérables” is driven more by external circumstances and societal structures, while in “The Color Purple,” the journey is more internal and focused on personal transformation.
    3. The musical styles are distinct, reflecting the different cultural contexts and time periods of the two stories.

Using the previous table, identify the MBTI personality that would drawn to the specific musical. Do the same analysis for Big 5.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five personality traits are frameworks used to describe and categorize individual differences in personality. Here is an analysis based on those theories for both “Les Misérables” and “The Color Purple”:

**Les Misérables**

**MBTI**: INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging) personalities, often known as the “Advocate” or the “Idealist,” may be drawn to “Les Misérables”. They are typically introspective, empathetic, and driven by a strong sense of idealism and morality, which aligns with the themes of social justice, sacrifice, and redemption in the story.

**Big 5**: High in Openness (appreciating variety, intellectual curiosity, and a preference for novelty), Agreeableness (being compassionate and cooperative towards others), and Neuroticism (being more prone to feelings of anxiety, moodiness, and emotional instability).

**The Color Purple**

**MBTI**: ENFJ (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging) personalities, known as the “Protagonist” or “Giver,” could be particularly attracted to “The Color Purple”. They are often empathetic, supportive, and have a desire to help others realize their potential, mirroring the themes of personal growth and empowerment in the story.

**Big 5**: High in Openness (appreciation for art, emotion, and novel experiences), Agreeableness (value cooperation, and are considerate, friendly, generous, helpful), and Emotional Stability (calm, emotionally resilient individuals who can handle stressful situations and heavy themes).

Remember, these are just potential matches, and one’s personality type doesn’t necessarily dictate their preference for or connection with a certain type of literature or art. People of all personality types can and do enjoy both of these works, and they might connect with different aspects of the stories based on their personal experiences and perspectives.

Imagine a young man visiting his dermatologist to hear to result from lab test after removal of a melanoma on his back. How would you as the his oncologist explain the result in a comforting and encouraging way?” ​

“Hello there, it’s good to see you again. Before we delve into the results, I just want to remind you that it’s perfectly natural to feel nervous or anxious. This is a big moment, and it’s okay to feel a wide range of emotions. I’d also like to stress that no matter what the results are, our team is here for you every step of the way, providing you with the best care and the most effective treatment plans.

Now, onto the results from your lab test. As you know, we removed a melanoma from your back a while ago. The main purpose of the lab test was to understand whether the melanoma had spread, or ‘metastasized’, to other parts of your body, and to determine the nature and stage of the cancer.

I’m glad to inform you that the lab tests show that we managed to remove all of the melanoma, and it hasn’t spread to any of your lymph nodes or other parts of your body. This is very good news. It means that the cancer was caught early, and the surgery was successful in removing the melanoma completely. Your early detection and intervention played a significant role in this.

However, we should still remain vigilant. Melanoma, like any form of cancer, can sometimes come back. As part of your ongoing care, I recommend regular skin checks and follow-up appointments with us to ensure that if there’s any recurrence, we can catch it early just like we did this time. Additionally, we need to keep an eye on your overall health and make sure that we’re doing everything possible to prevent this from happening again.

There are also some lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk. Protecting your skin from the sun, avoiding tanning beds, and monitoring your skin for any changes are all important steps. And, of course, a healthy diet and regular exercise can contribute to overall well-being.

Remember, this is a journey, and we’re here to walk through it with you. Today’s news is positive and should be a reason to breathe a sigh of relief. It’s a testament to your strength and resilience. Let’s continue to work together to make sure you stay healthy and well. I’m here to answer any questions you might have, or if there’s anything you need me to clarify.”

Insert into a table the significant parts of the above explanation. Divide into relevant parts.

Sure, I can break down the conversation into relevant parts and summarize the main points in a table format.

| Part | Summary |
| — -| — -|
| Introduction and Emotional Comfort | The oncologist provides emotional comfort, reminding the patient that it’s normal to feel nervous or anxious, and that the medical team is there to support them throughout the process. |
| Purpose of Lab Test | The oncologist explains the purpose of the lab test, which was to understand whether the melanoma had spread or ‘metastasized’ to other parts of the body, and to determine the nature and stage of the cancer. |
| Results and Explanation | The oncologist reveals the positive results of the test, confirming that the melanoma was successfully removed and hasn’t spread to any other parts of the body. |
| Future Vigilance and Care | The oncologist emphasizes the importance of ongoing care, including regular skin checks and follow-up appointments, to catch any possible recurrence of melanoma early. |
| Lifestyle Recommendations | The oncologist provides advice on lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of melanoma, including sun protection, avoiding tanning beds, and maintaining overall health through diet and exercise. |
| Final Comforting Words and Invitation for Questions | The oncologist gives words of comfort, praises the patient’s resilience, and invites any questions or clarifications, reinforcing the supportive role of the medical team. |

Why is it invalidating and unhelpful to say “it could be worse” “I’ve seen worse” when someone is expressing their suffering to someone?

The phrases “it could be worse” or “I’ve seen worse” can feel invalidating or unhelpful when someone is expressing their suffering because they appear to minimize the person’s experiences and feelings. Here are a few reasons why these responses can be perceived as insensitive:

1. **Minimization of Pain**: When someone is going through a hard time, they are likely sharing their feelings in the hopes of receiving empathy, understanding, or support. Telling them that “it could be worse” or “I’ve seen worse” can come across as dismissing their pain and struggles. This can lead to them feeling misunderstood, unheard, or invalidated. It might seem like their pain is being compared to someone else’s, and considered less significant.

2. **Lack of Empathy**: Saying “it could be worse” does not convey empathy. Empathy is about understanding and sharing the feelings of another. Rather than acknowledging the person’s feelings, this response avoids engaging with them.

3. **Pain is Subjective**: Everyone’s experience with pain and suffering is unique and personal. What might seem like a small issue to one person might be a massive problem to another. It’s important to respect individual experiences and not to compare them to others.

4. **Redirects the Focus**: Instead of focusing on the person’s current pain or struggle, the comments shift the focus onto other situations or individuals. The person sharing their struggle might feel that their suffering is being overshadowed.

5. **Missed Opportunity for Support**: When someone is sharing their suffering, it’s an opportunity to provide emotional support, lend a listening ear, and show kindness and compassion. Saying “it could be worse” or “I’ve seen worse” may close down the conversation and discourage the person from seeking help in the future.

Instead of these phrases, it can be more helpful to offer statements of validation and support, such as “I’m sorry you’re going through this,” “That sounds really tough,” or “How can I support you?”

What do you recommend as a better way to react or respond?

If someone is expressing their suffering to you, the main objective should be to create a safe space for them to express their emotions and be genuinely heard. Here are some steps to respond better:

1. **Active Listening**: Show that you’re actively paying attention to what they’re saying. Nod, maintain eye contact, and give small verbal indications that you’re engaged, like “uh-huh,” “I see,” or “Go on.”

2. **Validate their feelings**: You might say something like, “That sounds really difficult,” or “I can see why you’re upset.” This shows that you’re taking their feelings seriously.

3. **Express empathy**: Show understanding by expressing empathy. You might say, “I can only imagine how tough that must be,” or “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.”

4. **Avoid making comparisons or judgements**: Avoid comparing their situation to others or making value judgements about their experience. Pain and suffering are highly personal and can’t easily be compared.

5. **Ask how you can help**: This could be as simple as asking, “What can I do to support you?” or “How can I help?” This shows that you’re willing to be there for them.

6. **Offer words of encouragement**: While you want to avoid false cheer, you can offer words of encouragement, such as “I believe in your strength to get through this,” or “I’m here for you, no matter what happens.”

7. **Respect their process**: Everyone has their own timeline for dealing with pain or adversity. It’s not helpful to rush someone to “get over it” or move past their feelings. Allow them to feel what they’re feeling.

By focusing on these elements, you can offer a meaningful, empathetic response to someone who is suffering.

The insight of the last one was revealing to me in that we are subconsciously unaware as to how we deal with stressful situations. We tend to gravitate toward what works for us and not necessarily what someone else needs. This empathic bias leads us to ineffective behavior that can be detrimental despite our intention to be helpful.

Although we may be very good at regulating our own personalities, our specific heuristics may be incompatible with what others need. We may never discuss that simply because we may sufficient experience in the many varieties of interactions with people. We may know how to regulate our selves but be completely incompetent and ignorant in helping someone else self-regulate.

Empathy is a highly intuitive cognitive capability and thus can’t be acquired from propositional knowing but instead requires more emphasis on procedural, perspectival and participatory knowing. The kinds of knowledge discovery that we may all severely lack the experience simply because many of us live in a really of impoverished human interaction. We lack the luxury of the rich variety of human interaction. Deep human interaction is confined to people we have deep relationships with and often devoid of access to in an individualistic and mechanistic society.

But, if GPT-4 already can do this, would this not teach society to become empathic and hence self-authoring and self-transformational individuals? Why are we focusing predominantly in its potential harms when this, in fact, is a god-send to civilization?