Sour Grape is part of my master thesis—Absurd Intelligence: Explorations of the Unconscious.

Learn more about Absurd Intelligence.


Asking friends for comfort is a big part of social life, but not everybody is good at comforting. When you have no idea how to comfort someone, Sour Grape is where you ask for help.


According to psychiatrist George Vaillant of Harvard Medical School, there are four  maturity levels of defense mechanism: pathological, immature, neurotic and mature defenses, and according to Xumeng’s design research, however, only mature defenses are socially valued. Pathological defenses are generally seen as being irrational; Neurotic and Immature defenses such as fantasy, rationalization, compensation, and magical thinking, though common and relatively effective in the short tern, fall in the category of undermined or unproven coping mechanisms. 

The name Sour Grape is inspired by the story Fox and Grapes.

Aesop’s fable “Fox and the Grapes” tells the story of a fox that wishes to eat grapes from a vine but simply cannot reach them. Ultimately, rather than admitting defeat, the fox tells himself that the grapes are, in fact, undesirable, negating his sense of “loss”.

The idea of ‘sour grapes’ is a perfect example of rationalization as a neurotic defense mechanism. Interestingly, the fox and his behavior are generally seen as negative.

User Persona: Magic Mirror

User Persona: Magic Mirror

"I always try to be honest and tell the truth. However, when I realized that Snow White is the most beautiful woman, and Evil Queen won't be happy about it, I don't know what to say."

—Magic Mirror

Sour Grape is designed as a platform addressing the value of Neurotic and Immature defenses. Targeting people who are not good at comforting, it provides comforting suggestions based on typical Neurotic and Immature defense mechanisms. These defense mechanisms help Sour Grape come up with effective comforting sentences that inspire its users to more effectively comfort their friends.

Currently, there are no platform that focus on teaching people how to comfort other people. Similar Applications focus on either promoting social skills in general or helping the people who need the comforting. For the social skill promoting application, the focus is on long term learning, whereas the comforting app focuses more on immediate response. Instead of focus more on clinical advice than offering empathy and warmth, Sour Grape aims at having the personality of the nonjudgmental friend who stands by your side no matter what, which add to more entertainment than existing comfort chatbots.