Facebook Inc (FB) researcher apologizes for psychology experiment
The author that was responsible for the Facebook News Feed psychology experiment has apologized for anxiety that may have been caused for unaware participants. The study was conducted jointly by researchers from the University of California and Cornell University.
It was a week-long Facebook study that sought to find evidence of an “emotional contagion” that could be spread through social networking websites. A team of social scientists changed manipulated News Feed items for over 689,000 users.
A group of users saw more positive updates while others saw more negative updates. The study was called Experimental Evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. The study proved that emotional contagion could be transferred through social networks without face-to-face interaction.
The individuals that were exposed to negative News Feed items tended to post more negative content and people that saw more positive News Feed items posted more positive content.
Over 3 million Facebook posts were analyzed during the study. Many Facebook users were outraged after learning about the study because the participants were not notified.
The research team argued that they operated within Facebook’s data guidelines. One of the three research authors, Adam Kramer, apologized for the study on Facebook.
“My co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety,” said Kramer.
He went on to defend the effort by the team by saying it was “important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out.” Kramer said he cared about the emotional impact that Facebook had on its users.
“While we’ve always considered what research we do carefully, we (not just me, several other researchers at Facebook) have been working on improving our internal review practices. The experiment in question was run in early 2012, and we have come a long way since then. Those review practices will also incorporate what we’ve learned from the reaction to this paper,” he added.
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