A Cautionary Tale About AI-Generated Goal Suggestions

Falk Lieder, Pin Zhen Chen, Jugoslav Stojcheski, Saksham Consul, Viktoria Pammer-Schindler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review


Setting the right goals and prioritizing them might be the most crucial and the most challenging type of decisions people make for themselves, their teams, and their organizations. In this article, we explore whether it might be possible to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to help people set better goals and which potential problems might arise from such applications. We devised the first prototype of an AI-powered digital goal-setting assistant and a rigorous empirical paradigm for assessing the quality of AI-generated goal suggestions. Our empirical paradigm compares the AI-generated goal suggestions against randomly-generated goal suggestions and unassisted goal-setting on a battery of self-report measures of important goal characteristics, motivation, and usability in a large-scale repeated-measures online experiment. The results of an online experiment with 259 participants revealed that our intuitively compelling goal suggestion algorithm was actively harmful to the quality of the people's goals and their motivation to pursue them. These surprising findings highlight three crucial problems to be tackled by future work on leveraging AI to help people set better goals: i) aligning the objective function of the AI algorithms with the design goals, ii) helping people quantify how valuable different goals are to them, and iii) preserving the user's sense of autonomy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMensch und Computer 2022
Subtitle of host publicationFacing Realities, MuC 2022 - Proceedings
EditorsMax Muhlhauser, Christian Reuter, Bastian Pfleging, Thomas Kosch, Andrii Matviienko, Kathrin Gerling, Sven Mayer, Wilko Heuten, Tanja Doring
PublisherAssociation of Computing Machinery
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450396905
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2022
EventMensch und Computer Conference 2022: Facing Realities - Darmstadt, Germany
Duration: 4 Sep 20227 Sep 2022

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


ConferenceMensch und Computer Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleMuC 2022


  • AI alignment
  • goal-setting
  • prioritization
  • productivity tools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Software


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