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MIT Study Gauges How People Perceive AI-created Content

That was fast. A 2023 MIT study found that when people didn’t know whether marketing content came from humans or AI, they preferred the results generated by AI. Generative AI is maturing at a rapid pace, such that many consumers can no longer differentiate between its output and copy generated by humans. However, I found the study’s second finding even more interesting.

When research participants were advised of the source of the content being evaluated (human or AI), their appraisal of the work created by humans went up. While the researchers noted this “human favoritism,” they also noted that participants’ assessment of the AI-generated content didn’t go down.

As Yunhao Zhang, one of the researchers, described it: “The most direct implication is that consumers really don’t mind content that’s produced by AI. They’re generally OK with it. At the same time, there’s great benefit in knowing that humans are involved somewhere along the line — that their fingerprint is present. Companies shouldn’t be looking to fully automate people out of the process.”

In the case of this study, at least, it turns out that humans don’t intrinsically hate AI, and they appreciate the value of human creativity. This strikes me as a rational and nuanced take on a subject that is frequently presented as divisive. This is an essential takeaway from the consumer or demand side, as almost all the AI conversations are about the supply side, such as work productivity, replacing workers, etc.

It also makes me wonder about how companies should be rethinking content creation. At first glance, it seems that marketers who master AI-augmented content creation will have the best chance of connecting with the most consumers.

As I see it, humans and AI have distinct roles in the creative process. AI can accelerate certain tasks and generate text that reflects the selected data or source materials, but it cannot duplicate human experience in terms of understanding a brand’s culture and voice, how its culture resonates with a target audience, and how to tailor creative and messaging to a specific audience to influence their behavior.

What do you think?

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