How Facebook’s Social Experiment Manipulated Online User Behavior

 

A new study conducted by Facebook is throwing all sorts of mixed reactions at the world’s largest social media company. A majority of those are, however, on the negative side. Apparently, Facebook decided to manipulate the emotions of its own users for a research.

Without gaining any sort of consent from its users, Facebook decided to play around with their emotions for a little experiment. The experiment lasted for around a week back in 2012 when the company analyzed over 700,000 users’ moods. The experiment concluded that most people are likely to post positive or negative content based on what they read on their newsfeed.

Facebook may not be the only company trying to play with users’ moods. A lot of advertisement companies try to compel their audience in similar ways. But the sheer size of Facebook’s so called social “experiment” has people on the internet going angry over how the company managed to manipulate their behavior.

According to a report filed by the company’s researchers after the study was conducted, “Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience same emotions without their awareness. Emotional contagion is well established in laboratory experiments, with people transferring positive and negative emotions to others.”

If done the wrong way, the research’s findings could find a lot of bad use cases amongst advertising agencies or governments across the world to manipulate online user behavior in a huge way. Considering the number of people Facebook currently houses in its virtual farms, it could breed a whole new generation of people easily manipulated by the content on their news feeds.

If you’re an enterprise, and you had a bunch of grumpy employees for one peculiar week in 2012, now you know the reason why. Or in case you had an unexpectedly amazing week of sales during that particular week, you can thank Facebook for it. It would probably work the same way for general consumers.

Source: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full

Image source: facebook.com

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