Nearly 700,000 English speaking users unwittingly found themselves to be guinea pigs in a psychological experiment conducted by Facebook, and many of those affected may still be unaware that they were even involved.
Data scientists working with Facebook reportedly manipulated what users saw in order to determine if emotions are contagious, Think Progress reports. The experiments took place over the week of January 11th-18th, 2012, and affected approximately 689,003 Facebook profiles.
A paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Facebook used a selective algorithm to control what users saw in their news feed. Some Facebook profiles saw more positive posts, while others were exposed to more emotionally negative content. Individual Facebook posts weren’t directly affected, and could still be viewed from friend’s profiles. Scientists then examined user’s news feeds in an effort to determine if the tone of what they saw on Facebook affected what they posted.
The experiment was a success, and researchers were able to determine that positive and negative moods are indeed contagious on Facebook, The New York Daily News reports. Positive posts will inspire someone to post more positive things about themselves, with negative posts also proving to be contagious on social media.