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Emotional Contagion

The Things We Do: Facebook Manipulates Our Mood

Roxanne Bauer's picture

When you smile, the world smiles back.”

We all know that smiling helps lift our moods as well as the moods of others.  Each time you smile at someone, you entice them to smile back.  But what about the messages we post online? 

Turns out, Facebook has been conducting a social psychology experiment on some of its users, and the results confirm what we already know… but in a surprising way.

In the experiment, Facebook manipulated the number of negative and positive posts appearing in the news feeds of some users.  When Facebook reduced the number of positive posts appearing in a news feed, making it feel more negative, individuals not only shared fewer positive posts but actually shared more negative posts, spreading the negativity they received. Conversely, when negative posts were reduced, making news feeds seem more positive, users produced fewer negative posts and more positive posts.  The study demonstrates the concept of emotional contagion (EC), the process by which a person or a group influences the emotions and affective behavior of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotions.