The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America just published a study where they tampered with just under 700,000 Facebook newsfeeds to conduct a massive psychology experiment based on the hypothesis that emotional states can be transferred to others through something called “emotional contagion.” This leads people to experience the same emotions without being aware that they’ve been affected by those around them.
What this means on social media is that what you are consuming each day is affecting you far more than you realize. The study proved this concept true, and showed that emotional cognition can occur without direct interaction and nonverbal cues.
Utilizing the algorithms Facebook already has in place to deliver you the most engaging, interesting newsfeed possible, researchers changed how much positive and negative content you were experiencing and then studied your posts in correlation.
Strikingly, but not surprisingly, it affected people’s longer-lasting moods such as overall happiness and depression. The study showed that when positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative ones and vice versa — indicating that Facebook doesn’t just influence our emotions, but our attitudes overall.
The study also suggests that, in contrast to what was previously believed, in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not needed to be affected by emotional cognition, and on a positive note that even just reading about other people’s positivity encourages you to be positive.
Wondering how it was possible (or legal) for Facebook to study and change maybe even your newsfeed? It’s because of the “Terms and Conditions” box that you checked off when you signed up — you gave them permission.
Check out the rest of the study here.