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A Comprehensive Exploration of LLM Hallucinations

February 23, 2024
min read

Advanced artificial intelligence systems, being touted as highly capable computational systems, could be considered reliable for delivering factually correct information, right?

Not all the time. Tidio's studies suggest that 75% of the respondents admitted that AI gave them misleading answers to their questions. Evidently, LLM (Large Language Model) hallucinations are a matter of concern and need to be eliminated or, at the very least, minimized.

Through this blog, let’s decode the causes of LLM hallucinations and their impact on the real world.

Understanding LLMs

A Large Language Model (LLM) is an artificial intelligence program built on machine learning concepts, giving them the ability to understand queries and generate responses. LLMs are trained on an expansive set of data to give them a wide range of “examples” to learn from.

Large language models leverage the power of transformer models to understand sequential data by establishing relationships between data points. This enables them to understand complex problems involving human language or other types of data.

In order to finetune LLMs, data scientists use prompt-tuning or other methods to train the model for specific tasks that it was created for.

LLMs may sometimes be trained from data that is gathered from the internet. Keep in mind that the ultimate quality of responses that an LLM is able to generate depends on the quality of data that is input into it.

LLMs are used for a variety of purposes, the most popular of them being the creation of generative AI applications.

What are Hallucinations in LLMs?

LLM hallucinations are a problem. They are basically responses generated by a LLM model that is nonsensical and divergent from the facts provided to the model through source content. Hallucination may be a result of an LLM model confusing its tasking requirements and messing up the source information to generate coherent responses in line with the query.

For example, for a summarization task, the source of information would be the text input provided by the user, based on which the LLM would generate a response. For a Q&A task, the source of information would be the vast data bank that the model has been given access to.

When an AI program generates a response against a query that is neither related to the context nor verifiable as correct, it could occur because there may be biases in the AI program, the data is incomplete, or the program isn’t equipped to handle problems of the nature that was presented.

Causes and Patterns in Hallucinations

Did you know that about 77% of the users have been deceived by AI hallucinations? This staggering statistic highlights a critical aspect of AI technology that often goes unnoticed. Therefore, it is crucial to delve into the causes and patterns of these hallucinations. So, let’s understand the hallucination LLM causes and patterns in detail.

1. Training Data Biases

In the end, large language models rely on the training datasets to learn how to respond to queries. If the datasets contain biases, inaccuracies, inadequacies, and other problems, they are going to show up as LLM hallucinations down the line.

For example, for a LLM model trained on real estate industry data, it would be difficult to formulate responses to questions about the healthcare industry, leading to dubious responses.

2. Overfitting and Underfitting

Overfitting and underfitting are two classical LLM problems that lead to hallucinated responses. Overfitting happens when an LLM has been trained accurately on one type of data, which causes it to struggle to form responses when it receives new data. In short, it gets used to handling a specific type of problem and struggles with new problems.

Underfitting occurs when an LLM model can’t understand relationships between the input and output variables, generating nonsensical responses.

3. Lack of Diverse Representations

Homogenization of responses may happen in an LLM that has been trained on underspecified data with gaps in perspective. It leads the LLM to learn from implicitly expressed assumptions that ultimately result in narrow-spectrum responses that could be very well offensive to some users in several scenarios.

For example, skipping the training of a model on an underrepresented demographic can lead to racial streaks in AI responses.

4. Model Complexity and Architecture

LLM models are, in the end, just computational machines. The reasoning capabilities they possess are limited and cannot match humans, no matter how intricate or complex their algorithms are. The inherent complexity of LLMs can induce hallucinations when faced with complex problems because the algorithms lack true reasoning and comprehension capabilities.

The responses are generated from a “borrowed” or “mimicked” reasoning capacity, lacking the depth of understanding needed to solve complex problems.


5. Contextual Understanding Limitations

The method by which LLMs generate responses to a query is by understanding the intent of the query first. As such, a vague or non-specific query may send an LLM spinning in circles because of the lack of context, causing it to deliver a hallucinated response. Context injection may help to solve this problem to some extent if the model is usually accurate.

Addressing Hallucinations in LLMs

Fortunately, it is possible to identify patterns in hallucinations and create solutions that eliminate erroneous responses in LLMs. About 48% of the people vote for AI education to help fight hallucination, while 47% prefer stronger regulations and developer guidelines.

Regardless of popular opinions, listed below are five robust ways to limit LLM hallucinations:

1. Mitigation Strategies

Developing LLM hallucination mitigation strategies is the first step to ensuring they don’t occur in the first place. This involves stringent protocols for model training, avoiding underfitting or overfitting, and ensuring high quality of training datasets. A retraining protocol and policy should be in place in case hallucinations do occur.


2. Explainability and Interpretability

Explainability and interpretability enable the data scientists to see inside the AI algorithms to identify where the hallucination stems from and what is causing the AI algorithms to generate bogus responses. It enhances model transparency and can help with hallucination mitigation.

3. Continuous Monitoring and Feedback Loops

For continuous improvement and finetuning of the accuracy of an LLM model, it is essential to monitor its performance constantly. Establish continuous monitoring and feedback loops to promptly get alerted of LLM hallucinations and recalibrate the training of the model for better accuracy in the next iteration.

4. Incorporating User-Centric Design

In order to ensure that there is effective communication between the LLM solution and its users, it is essential to design the interface in a way that is anchored in users’ needs. This involves training the model to use NLP, providing a variety of input methods, and making the interface simple to use.

5. Ethical Considerations and Governance

It is possible that the LLM hallucinations originate from the biases that the training data contains. As such, to remove offensive or non-neutral responses, enterprises should establish a code of ethics and governance protocol for training the LLM solution.

3 important Implications and Impact of Hallucinations

Studies show that a surprising 72% of the respondents trusted AI to provide them with reliable information. However, LLM hallucinations may work to reduce this trust by generating suspicious or questionable responses.

The true impact of LLM hallucinations is multifaceted:

1. Effects on End-Users

77% of people have been deceived by AI hallucinations at least once. The impact on the end user is tremendous, which could very well cause a loss of trust in AI systems to provide them with correct information.

2. Trust and Reliability

Because of AI hallucinations, 57% of the users have to cross-reference the furnished information. This proves to be a significant impact of bad AI responses on the level of trust people place in the answers that LLM solutions provide them.

3. Industry and Application Considerations

The concerns that worry people most due to AI hallucinations are related to privacy risks (security industry), misinformation in the media industry, and manipulation (geopolitical scenario.) Applications that leverage LLMs could pose privacy and security risks for users.

Real-world Examples

There are several quite hilarious (or dangerous) examples of LLM hallucinations that people across the world have experienced. ChatGPT has been hallucinating on occasion as well, actually – did you know that ChatGPT hallucinates 20% of the time? The screenshot below is an excellent real-world example of ChatGPT returning a nonsensical response to a user query:


As is evident, the response generated by ChatGPT is well-presented, almost making it sound plausible, but for the complete lack of fact and logic.

Another famous hallucination occurred when Google Bard was first demonstrated to the public. A bogus response to an innocent question by a user led to a fall in the stock price up to 7.7% ($100 billion) the next day.


Future Directions

The manifestation of the aftereffects of LLM hallucinations can cause a huge splash in the world. Especially in cases akin to Google Bard’s first mess-up that caused the stocks to crash, it is important to future-proof LLM development to eliminate hallucinations altogether.

One of the key novel approaches in mitigating LLM hallucinations is the Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) technique. This technique involves leveraging the generative capabilities of LLMs in combination with the retrieval of external information from the internet in real time. It is aimed at enhancing the accuracy and correctness of the model’s results.

The chief benefit that occurs from RAG is the retrieval of up-to-date and factual information through the referencing of current data from the internet.


The foundation of creating a realiable LLM lies in providing it with a robust, verified, and fact-checked dataset to learn from. High-quality datasets, efficient algorithms, and finetuning with current data ensure that the risk of biases and hallucinations remains controllable.

Empower your enterprise to create reliable machine-learning LLMs using MarkovML's AI platform. The platform features no-code AI tools that clear up the developmental clutter, enabling better transparency while development produces more reliable and powerful GenAI apps.

The collaborative platform also enables enterprises to unlock the deep-rooted insight from their data to fuel data management and intelligence operations. To understand MarkovML in better detail, visit the website.

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