I find the tinfoil helmet image is always good for a laugh – don’t want those pesky aliens messing with our thought patterns! At the same time, we all know aliens aren’t the problem. I recently read a statistic that in the US, we see as many advertisements in a year as people 50 years ago did in their lifetimes. Advertisers explicitly set out to mess with our thought patterns. Now an NPR post reveals that “Facebook scientists” have messed with our thoughts as well.
Here’s the gist of their experiment:
“For one week back in 2012, Facebook scientists altered what appeared on the News Feed of more than 600,000 users. One group got mostly positive items; the other got mostly negative items.
Scientists then monitored the posts of those people and found that they were more negative if they received the negative News Feed and more positive if they received positive items.”
Experimental methods rapidly followed the birth of psychology in the last century as social scientists sought acceptance into the real community of science. Freud, after all, won his Nobel Prize in literature, not science.
Back in the day, psych experiments were conducted on helpless animals and hapless college students who needed to make a buck. Now, Facebook Scientists (don’t you wish you could see their credentials?) can run such tests on all of us for free, because no human being now living has ever read the Terms of Service for anything online that they wish to join.
I actually find it interesting that this particular test confirmed a hunch I’ve been working out on this blog over the last few months: Reading negative news makes me crabby, while reading positive news improves my disposition. Only took me four years of blogging to work that out, a truth that could also be summarized by these wise words of British author, Kingsley Amis: “Nice things are nicer than nasty ones.”
Oh yes, and I was being precise when I said four years – I launched this blog four years ago on June 28. They say most blogs don’t last that long, and I know I’m posting less often lately – it seems like I always get lazy in summer, especially in June. But all of you readers keep me hunting for interesting things, or weird things (like Facebook scientists) to share. So thanks, I appreciate it, and please stay tuned!