The experiment described in the article was intended to research the ability of individuals to change their emotional state depending on the indicators used by their peers. The researchers modified the participants’ Facebook news feed by removing content with positive or negative expressions. As a result, the participants produced posts with the respective decrease of positive and negative statements.
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As can be seen from the results, there is a clear and quantifiable correlation between the amount of positive or negative expressions in the newsfeed and those used by the sample population in their posts (Kramer, Guillory, & Hancock, 2014). However, it is possible to suggest that both changes were caused by a third variable and that there was no causation between the two. However, the study in question was an experiment, which means that the researchers were able to change the suspected factor directly and observe the result. It should also be mentioned that the study was controlled, with controls showing weaker emotional changes in accordance with the hypothesis. Therefore, it would be safe to conclude that the established effect can be characterized as causation.
Another issue that needs to be pointed out is the possibility of ethical violations in the course of the experiment. For instance, the paper does not specify whether the participants were informed about the changes in their news feed and possible psychological and emotional effects. While it can be argued that such a modification of the procedure could compromise the validity of results, it should also be understood that the participants could suffer tremendous negative consequences (Goel, 2014). Essentially, the results were obtained at the expense of the participants’ emotional well-being, which is unacceptable by modern technical standards.
Goel, V. (2014). Facebook tinkers with users’ emotions in news feed experiment, stirring outcry. The New York Times. Web.
Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8788-8790.