Facebook has discovered its users' emotions can be manipulated into positive or negative states by "tweaking" their news feeds after conducting an enormous experiment on 689,003 users reports Gregory S. McNeal of Forbes in Facebook Manipulated User News Feeds To Create Emotional Responses.
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.”
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The full article can be found here Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks, by Adam D. I. Kramera,1, Jamie E. Guilloryb, and Jeffrey T. Hancockc published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues.
Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. Emotional contagion is well established in laboratory experiments, with people transferring positive and negative emotions to others. Data from a large real-world social network, collected over a 20-y period suggests that longer-lasting moods (e.g., depression, happiness) can be transferred through networks [Fowler JH, Christakis NA (2008) BMJ 337:a2338], although the results are controversial. In an experiment with people who use Facebook, we test whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. 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 work also suggests that, in contrast to prevailing assumptions, 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.
12:43 AM PT: Hey, I just thought of some cool follow-up research. Face book could filter the new feeds of users for more or less favorable coverage of political candidates, Parties and issue, and then see how much they could influence poll results, and even voting patterns. I just wanted to be the first to "stake out this exciting new research area. (Snark alert!)
This could also open up considerable marketing opportunities for social media organization to generate new "revenue sources" from political candidates political parties, and 501(c)4s who could purchase "mindshare" and form opinion and feelings of whole communities on broad ranges of issues and celebrity politicians. (Double snark alert!)
Well, actually this is already being done obviously, but now they can charge higher rates now that they have scientific proof that that if works. (Sad truth, alert!)