The recent controversial study conducted by Facebook on the emotions of a sample of its users certainly has stirred up conversation. The study, conducted in 2012 by a “Facebook data scientist” and researchers from Cornell University and the University of California, was theoretically to reveal insight on users’ emotions connected to social networks.
Some are calling the ethics of Facebook’s Emotional Contagion study questionable. The study measured users’ emotional responses to content that they were exposed to. The content that Facebook effectively forced some users to see were emotional triggers, designed to influence users’ response to the online stimuli. Unaware that they were the subjects of a social experiment, Facebook users were psychologically manipulated. The results of this study found that the more negative the relayed content was, the more negative a user was in his or her reactional behavior.
Why is this significant? This Facebook Emotional Contagion study demonstrates the power of human emotions to influence behavior. It shows that emotion drives engagement and therefore that people are susceptible to emotionally driven marketing. This tactic has been shown to elicit not only negative responses in people but also a wide range of emotions, like positivity, shock, or fear.
This strategy of influencing consumers’ heartstrings has been around for some time. It’s one that many advertisers employ today, as we experience them in our magazines, on TV in commercials, and frequently when we browse the Internet. The issue with Facebook’s study, although interesting in nature, is that research participants should be aware that they are taking part in an experience and are being observed. This intrusion of privacy against Facebook users in the operation of the study is what makes them victims in this case.
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