Monday, June 30, 2014

Facebook Manipulated User News Feeds To Create Emotional Responses

Gregory S. McNeal

Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users, manipulating their news feeds to assess the effects on their emotions. The details of the experiment were published in an article entitled “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks” published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The short version is, Facebook has the ability to make you feel good or bad, just by tweaking what shows up in your news feed.

The experiment tested whether emotional contagion occurs between individuals on Facebook, a question the authors (a Facebook scientist and two academics) tested by using an automated system to reduce the amount of emotional content in Facebook news feeds. The authors found that when they manipulated user timelines to reduce positive expressions displayed by others “people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.”

The results suggest that “emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.” For a long time research on emotional contagion was premised on the need for in-person and nonverbal cues, this experiment suggests “in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not strictly necessary for emotional contagion, and that the observation of others’ positive experiences constitutes a positive experience for people. the rest
How did Facebook manipulate news feeds to create emotional contagion? They relied on an automated system that identified positive or negative words based on an electronic dictionary. They then reduced the positive content in some users news feeds, finding that when the positive content was reduced, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.
Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal
Researchers from Facebook, Cornell and UCSF published a paper describing a mass-scale experiment in which Facebook users' pages were manipulated to see if this could induce and spread certain emotional states. They say it was legal to do this without consent, because Facebook's terms of service require you to give consent for, basically, anything...


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