Controversial Facebook Research Shows They Can Manipulate Your Feed to Make You Sadder or Happier

controversial facebook research studyRecently news of a controversial Facebook research study came out, and it upset many people. For the study, researchers had manipulated people’s Facebook feeds to show them either more happy stories or more sad stories, and then measured how that manipulation affected the types of posts and posting frequency of the affected individuals. In short, they found that, yes: when a person’s Facebook feed is sadder, that person tends to post less frequently, and what they post is of a darker and more gloomy nature. When the feed is happier, people post happier things. The researchers call this “emotional contagion” and it is an interesting finding, to be sure.

But is this ethical? Some 700,000 Facebook feeds were manipulated, and many people are concerned because they argue that Facebook’s privacy and data permissions do not allow for this level of manipulation. Facebook may have made some people marginally happier during the experiment, which is hard to complain about, but what about all of the people they intentionally saddened? For people suffering from depression or anxiety, being experimented upon without consent in a manner that puts them at risk for being intentionally saddened definitely seems problematic. And while the findings from this experiment are interesting, and have many potential applications, it’s difficult to rely on research data that has been obtained in a questionable or non-standard manner.

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Large Study Underway To Test Posit Science Exercises in People with Schizophrenia

We are excited to share this video news report about a schizophrenia study we have been working on for the past few years. The e-CAeSAR Study is being conducted in partnership with the Schizophrenia Trials Network at ten top-tier research centers nationwide. The trial tests a unique online cognitive training program (called “PACR”) designed for […]

Study: Brain Training Shows Significant, Lasting Gains in Cognitive Function

I woke up in a cheerful mood this morning because yesterday the results of a scientific study were published and they once again demonstrated that very strong benefits can be achieved through only 10 hours of Posit Science brain training. The cognitive benefits were not just seen in the tasks themselves, but in measures of […]

Gone But Not Forgotten? The Mystery Behind Infant Memories


What is your earliest memory? A frightening fall down the stairs? Blowing out candles on your third birthday? Or perhaps it is a trip to the hospital to visit a newborn sibling? Whatever the content, it is probably short and rather hazy. Adult recollections of infancy and early childhood are typically fragmentary. We forget so […]

Myths About the Brain: 10 percent and Counting


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The Strange Tale of Phineas Gage


Phineas Gage began the day of September 13, 1848 as a man remarkable only to those who knew him personally. He worked as the foreman of a railway construction gang in Vermont, where his group was preparing the bed for the Rutland and Burlington Rail Road. At just twenty-six years old, Gage was already a […]

Hans Selye: The Discovery of Stress


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Decision-making is Still a Work in Progress for Teenagers


Recent studies of brain development in teenagers may finally give parents the scientific authority to say “No you’re not!” in answer to the common adolescent complaint, “But I’m old enough to make my own decisions!” That authority comes from brain imaging studies that reveal some surprising features of the adolescent brain. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd and colleagues […]

How We Remember, and Why We Forget


I remember my mother’s vegetable garden when I was a child, corn plants tall like skyscrapers. I remember when I fell out of a tree and everyone from the neighbor’s barbecue rushed over to see if I’d broken a bone. Remember, remember… the verb itself is poetic, connotating the essence of experience. The notion of […]

Hearing Disorders

Although its most obvious role is in hearing, the auditory system contains organs that mediate both hearing and balance. Problems in the auditory system can range from a simple ear ache to complete deafness and may also involve difficulties with equilibrium. Each type of pathology is the result of damage in a specific part of […]

Central Nervous System Overview


The nervous system informs the body about itself and the world around it and enables the body to react to this information. To accomplish this, the nervous system actively identifies, integrates and interprets incoming sensory stimuli, and produces electrochemical impulses that are distributed via peripheral nerves to generate responses to the environment and internal conditions. […]