Facebook Under Fire Over Psychology Study
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Facebook Under Fire Over Psychology Study

By SiliconIndia   |   Monday, 30 June 2014, 06:24 Hrs
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BANGALORE: You may not be aware of it, but as part of the terms and conditions you agree to when using Facebook, you allow the company to get you involved in experiments unknowingly. Yes, one of the popular and most liked social networking sites “Facebook” recently conducted a secret massive psychology experiment on its users to find out how they respond to positive and negative messages - without telling participants, reports CNET News.com. It seems that over 600,000 Facebook users took part in the psychological experiment organized by the social media company.



The site altered the tone of the users' news feed in order to highlight either positive or negative posts from their friends, which were seen on their news feed. Even the user’s responses were monitored, in order to see whether their friends' attitude had an impact on their own. "The results show emotional contagion," wrote a team of Facebook scientists, in a paper published by the PNAS journal - Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists of the United States. "When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks."



This experiment was possible by Facebook due to the users ticking a box agreeing to their terms and conditions. These terms and conditions included internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, and research and service improvement. In the study, the authors point out that they stayed within the remit of the agreement by using a machine to pick out positive and negative posts, meaning no user data containing personal information was actually viewed by human researchers.



The lead scientist, Adam Kramer, said in an interview when he joined Facebook in March 2012 that he took the job because "Facebook data constitutes the largest field study in the history of the world."



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