Discursive Competence in ChatGPT, Part 2: Memory for Texts, Version 3

49 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2023

Date Written: October 12, 2023


In a few cases ChatGPT responds to a prompt (e.g. “To be or not to be”) by returning a specific text word-for-word. More often (e.g. “Johnstown flood, 1889”) it returns with information, but the specific wording will vary from one occasion to the next. In some cases (e.g. “Miriam Yevick”) it doesn’t return anything, though the topic was (most likely) in the training corpus. When the prompt is the beginning of a line or a sentence in a famous text, ChatGPT always identifies the text. When the prompt is a phrase that is syntactically coherent, ChatGPT generally identifies the text, but may not properly locate the phrase within the text. When the prompt cuts across syntactic boundaries, ChatGPT almost never identifies the text. But when told it is from a “well-known speech” it is able to do so. ChatGPT’s response to these prompts is similar to associative memory in humans, possibly on a holographic model. On the whole it is clear that the LLM underlying ChatGPT has not memorized any input data in the sense of rote memorization.

Keywords: ChatGPT, GPT, large language models, LLMs, memory, recall, machine learning, AI,associative memory

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., Discursive Competence in ChatGPT, Part 2: Memory for Texts, Version 3 (October 12, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

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