Step-Back Prompting

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Link: Original Research (not mine)

Ok Prompt Engineers…

I am such a huge fan of this prompting style, and I was so excited to stumble into some great research showing our instincts were right – this is a legit way to prompt GPT! Such a useful prompt pattern, and great job showing how seamlessly it integrates into other prompting techniques, like Chain-Of-Thought!

The research article on “Step-Back Prompting” introduces a technique where Large Language Models (LLMs) are prompted to first abstract high-level concepts and principles from a given problem, and then use these abstractions to guide their reasoning towards a solution. This method has shown significant performance improvements in various reasoning-intensive tasks. The process involves two main steps:

  1. Abstraction: Instead of directly answering the question, the LLM first identifies and retrieves relevant high-level concepts or principles related to the question.
  2. Reasoning: Grounded in the high-level abstractions, the LLM then reasons out the answer to the original question.

This approach helps in reducing errors in intermediate reasoning steps and improves the accuracy of the final answers.

Original Prompt:

“How do I start a fitness routine?”

Step-Back Prompts:

  1. “What are essential considerations when starting a new fitness routine?”
  2. “Which exercises are suitable for beginners in a fitness routine?”
  3. “Given these considerations and exercises, how should a beginner start a fitness routine?”

Original Prompt:

“How can I grow tomatoes in my backyard?”

Step-Back Prompts:

  1. “What are general principles for growing vegetables in a backyard garden?”
  2. “What specific conditions do tomatoes require to grow successfully?”
  3. “Considering these principles and conditions, what steps should I follow to grow tomatoes in my backyard?”

Original Prompt:

How do I transition to a career in data science?

Step-Back Prompts:

  1. “What are key skills and qualifications needed for a career in data science?”
  2. “How can one acquire these skills and qualifications?”
  3. “Based on these requirements, what steps should I take to transition into a data science career?”

Learning a New Language

  • Original Prompt: “How can I learn Spanish effectively?”
  • Step-Back Prompts:
    1. “What are effective strategies for learning a new language?”
    2. “Which of these strategies are particularly useful for learning Spanish?”
    3. “How can I implement these strategies to effectively learn Spanish?”

Home Decorating

  • Original Prompt: “How do I decorate my living room?”
  • Step-Back Prompts:
    1. “What are key principles of interior design?”
    2. “How do these principles apply to decorating a living room?”
    3. “Given these principles, what are some specific ideas for decorating my living room?”

Preparing for a Job Interview

  • Original Prompt: “How should I prepare for a job interview at a tech company?”
  • Step-Back Prompts:
    1. “What are general best practices for preparing for any job interview?”
    2. “What specific preparation is needed for a tech company interview?”
    3. “Based on these insights, how can I effectively prepare for my upcoming tech company interview?”

Improving Mental Health

  • Original Prompt: “How can I improve my mental health?”
  • Step-Back Prompts:
    1. “What are common factors that affect mental health?”
    2. “What are effective strategies to address these factors?”
    3. “Considering these strategies, what steps can I take to improve my mental health?”

I’ve been prompting this way for the past few months, and it’s flawless, every time. Now that’s a good prompt pattern!

Thanks Guys!


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