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Facebook altered 689,000 users’ News Feeds for a psychology experiment

29
Jun
2014

According to new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Facebook altered the News Feeds for hundreds of thousands of users as part of a psychology experiment devised by the companys on-staff data scientist. By scientifically altering News Feeds, the experiment sought to learn about the way positive and negative effect travels through social networks, ultimately concluding that in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not strictly necessary for emotional contagion. To test the hypothesis, the researchers identified 689,003 different English-language Facebook users, and began removing emotionally negative posts for one group and positive posts for another. According to the paper, when a person loaded their News Feed, posts that contained emotional content of the relevant emotional valence, each emotional post had between a 10% and 90% chance (based on their User ID) of being omitted from their News Feed for that specific viewing. The posts were still available by visiting a friends timeline directly or reloading the News Feed.

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