Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks

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Paper (help)
Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks
Authors: Adam D. I. Kramer, Jamie E. Guillory, Jeffrey T. Hancock
Citation: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111 (24): 8788-8790. 2014
Database(s): PubMed (PMID/24889601)
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1320040111.
Link(s): http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full.pdf
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Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks is an interventionalistic sentiment analysis study on Facebook news feed to see how emotion diffuses between social media users.

The study caused some stir in the media where the ethical aspect of "emotional manipulation" of uninformed research subjects was questioned.[1] The journal made an "Editorial expression of Concern" were they stated

"It is nevertheless a matter of concern that the collection of the data by Facebook may have involved practices that were not fully consistent with the principles of obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out." [1]

Sentiment analysis of users Facebook feed was performed with Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software. A similar study was performed by the first author using a non-interventionalistic approach in the publication The spread of emotion via Facebook.

Early media reports stated that the study received funding from the Army Research Office. However, this is not the case.[2][3]


[edit] Subjects

Subject group #1 (help)
Facebook users
Subjects/♂/♀: 689003 /  /
Age: (–)
Nationality: define nationality
Approval: define approval

Group 1 of 689003 facebook users were included in the study.

The subjects were not aware of being in the study. The researchers was blinded to the actual text that the users wrote.

While the users have agreed to Facebook's Data Use Policy,[4] it is unclear if the study was reviewed by an institutional review board. Susan Fiske stated that "Their revision letter said they had Cornell IRB approval as a ‘pre-existing dataset’ presumably from Facebook, who seems to have reviewed it as well in some unspecified way"[5]

[edit] Crititique

  1. Manipulation of users emotion without consent.
    1. Facebook's Data Use Policy acted as an approval.[6] Institutional Review Board approval is not clear. Susan Fiske stated that "Their revision letter said they had Cornell IRB approval as a ‘pre-existing dataset’ presumably from Facebook, who seems to have reviewed it as well in some unspecified way"[7] (see also the Sebastian Deterding discussion)
    2. Did the study require IRB at all? If the study was federally funded it needed IRB, but that was not the case. However, Cornell University has its own requirement, but the Common Rule does not apply if the collection is "existing data". Whether it is "existing data" is unclear. Nevertheless, the journal PNAS is clear in that it requires IRB.[8]
    3. No user opt-in for the specific study, - only the overall Facebook's Data Use Policy.
    4. The Facebook Data Use Policy did not specify "Research" until May 2012, that is 4 months after the data was collected.[9]
    5. Defenders of the study wrote that this is just ordinary A/B testing done by most large-scale Internet companies
      1. "So Facebook, like its competitors, is already openly manipulating users’ emotions. This isn’t about manipulation; it’s about measurement."[10]
  2. Sentiment analysis is not accurate.
    1. Negation not handled with LIWC. This was brought forth by John M. Grohol, but he did not substantiate his critique.[11] Indeed there are several studies of short social media text evaluating sentiment analysis methods. These studies show that sentiment analysis is indeed possible on such short messages, albeit errors occur. Negation is not a "huge problem".
  3. Effect sizes were small.[12][13] The highest was 0.1%
  4. Not necessarily emotional contagion, - only response to other users emotional writings.[14]
  5. It is unclear if the contagioness of words (regardless of the emotionality) affects the measure.
  6. News feeds may likely be correlated making the stanard t-test not report correct results.
  7. Study is not reproducible.
    1. This was brought fourth by Joshua Tauberer. Although other researchers do not (necessarily) have access to Facebook and its data, there has been other studies with sentiment analysis and information diffusion (emotion diffusion), e.g., Good friends, bad news - affect and virality in Twitter.
  8. Behavoristic critique: The study claim that the words expressed in the news feed correspond to "interior states" (emotion).[15]

[edit] Related studies

  1. A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization
  2. Detecting emotional contagion in massive social networks. Sentiment analysis on Facebook feeds correlated with weather.
  3. Experimental study of informal rewards in peer production. Interventionistic study on Wikipedia users that also was split in two groups to determine it social awards resulted in higher productivity.
  4. Envy on Facebook: a hidden threat to users' life satisfaction?
  5. Good friends, bad news - affect and virality in Twitter. Non-interventionalistic study on how sentiment affects retweeting in Twitter.
  6. Sune Lehmann and Piotr Sapieżyński, You’re here because of a robot. Interventionalistic study on Twitter manipulation.
  7. The spread of emotion via Facebook. Non-interventionalistic study with sentiment analysis on Facebook feeds.

[edit] External links

[edit] News

  1. Everything We Know About Facebook's Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment, The Atlantic.
  2. Facebook’s Unethical Experiment, Slate.
  3. Even the Editor of Facebook's Mood Study Thought It Was Creepy, The Atlantic
  4. Facebook Manipulated 689,003 Users' Emotions For Science, Forbes.
  5. News feed: 'Emotional contagion' sweeps Facebook, Cornell Chronicle.
  6. Media statement on Cornell University’s role in Facebook ‘emotional contagion’ research, Cornell University press release.
  7. Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal
  8. Facebook Added 'Research' To User Agreement 4 Months After Emotion Manipulation Study, Forbes. 2014 June 30. Notes that the Facebook Data Use Policy was changed 4 months after the study.
  9. Michelle N. Meyer, Everything You Need to Know About Facebook’s Controversial Emotion Experiment, Wired and The Faculty Lounge.

[edit] Blogs and opinions

  1. Tal Yarkoni, In defense of Facebook
    1. Tal Yarhoni, In defense of In Defense of Facebook, an update a few days later.
  2. Brian Keegan, The Beneficence of Mobs: A Facebook Apologia, supportive of the study.
  3. Sebastian Deterding, Frame Clashes, or: Why the Facebook Emotion Experiment Stirs Such Mixed Emotion
  4. Adam D. I. Kramer, OK so. A lot of people have asked me.... Update from the Facebook employee that did the study.
  5. John M. Grohol, Emotional Contagion on Facebook? More Like Bad Research Methods, Critical of the method
  6. Joshua Tauberer, 6 problems you should know before writing about Facebook’s emotional contagion study
  7. Finn Årup Nielsen, Facebook contagion study contagion.
  8. Cliff Lampe, Facebook Is Good for Science, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

[edit] References

  1. See, e.g., http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/everything-we-know-about-facebooks-secret-mood-manipulation-experiment/373648/
  2. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/everything-we-know-about-facebooks-secret-mood-manipulation-experiment/373648/
  3. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/06/news-feed-emotional-contagion-sweeps-facebook
  4. https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/your-info
  5. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/06/29/facebook-doesnt-understand-the-fuss-about-its-emotion-manipulation-study/
  6. https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/your-info
  7. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/06/29/facebook-doesnt-understand-the-fuss-about-its-emotion-manipulation-study/
  8. http://codingconduct.tumblr.com/post/90242838320/frame-clashes-or-why-the-facebook-emotion-experiment
  9. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/06/30/facebook-only-got-permission-to-do-research-on-users-after-emotion-manipulation-study/
  10. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2014/06/30/facebooks-experiment-on-emotions-sounds-creepier-than-it-was/
  11. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/06/23/emotional-contagion-on-facebook-more-like-bad-research-methods/
  12. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/06/23/emotional-contagion-on-facebook-more-like-bad-research-methods/
  13. http://www.talyarkoni.org/blog/2014/06/28/in-defense-of-facebook/
  14. http://www.talyarkoni.org/blog/2014/06/28/in-defense-of-facebook/
  15. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2014/06/30/facebooks-experiment-on-emotions-sounds-creepier-than-it-was/
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