Facebook research, manipulations hardly impacted individual behaviour

"I really expected bigger differences in behaviour  than that"

Despite uproar about Facebook ethics, experimental results had a tiny impact on each user

Surprise, was definitely how I felt when I read how little user behaviour was affected by the experimental manipulations:

    • 1On average, people used less than one fewer emotional word in every 1000 words in Facebook posts over the following week
  • That means the difference made by the experimental manipulations was tiny

Significant results?

Yes, say the researchers1 owing to the huge number of 689,003 Facebook users involved. Their data showed that emotional states can become virus like, therefore, easily transferred to others. Consequently, people experienced the same emotions as one another without realising it, and without directly interacting. Exposure to emotions in a friend’s Facebook post was enough. For more information see the British Psychological Society summary article here: http://ow.ly/yEjRy

Important results?

The researchers thought so. They pointed out with the massive scale of social networks such as Facebook; even small effects can have large overall impacts. Also, they thought that their findings might also be useful for relaying public health messages. However, I suspect that the manipulative aspect of their study may mean people feel nervous about how such recommendations are used. See my blog article about the ‘creepy or justifiable’ implications here: http://mwrconsulting.co.uk/?page_id=117

For an excellent summary of the research findings and the resulting ethical debate read a British Psychological Society article here: http://ow.ly/yEjRy


Kramer, A. D. I., Guillory, J. E., Hancock J. T. (2014), Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks, PNAS, 111 (24), 8788-8790

Reach us at 07779 345 499, m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

Marjorie Raymond

Marjorie Raymond

T: 07779 345 499 E: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people. Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

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