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The Things We Do

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. 

The Things We Do: Why are World Cup Fans so Crazy?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

The World Cup started in Brazil on June 12. This means that the next few weeks will be filled with anger, anguish, joy, and triumph.  Sports fans have always been deeply emotional and obsessed… but also incomprehensible to those who ‘don’t get it.’  Why do fans paint their faces, dye their hair, or engage in bizarre rituals for good luck? Why do we still cheer for our teams despite corruption or other misdeeds? 

Edward Hirt, a psychology professor at Indiana University in the US, has researched sports psychology, and he says, "As human beings, we have this desire to feel a sense of belonging or a sense of social connectedness with others, and being a part of different groups (gives) us identities."  Scientists have shown that fans who feel personally invested in a team or who attend games and cheer with their fellow fans reap mental health benefits that come from feeling social connected.
 

The Things We Do: Will Money Make You Mean?

Roxanne Bauer's picture
In a TEDTalk published Dec 20, 2013, social psychologist Paul Piff shares the results of several research studies on how people behave when they feel wealthy. He concludes that while inequality is a complex and formidable challenge, there are bright spots, too. 
 
In the first study, two participants are asked to play Monopoly, but one player is given more money than the other.  Throughout the course of the game, the 'rich' player moved around the board louder, made sounds of dominance and non-verbal displays of power, and became ruder and less sympathetic to the 'poor' player.  After the game ended and the rich player won, the rich player talked about what he/she did and bought during the game to explain the outcome- they did not mention the unfair advantage they were given at the start of the game.

Piff believes that Monopoly can be used as a metaphor for many contemporary societies in which some people are born with more access to resources, money and power. 
 
TED Talks, Paul Piff

The Things We Do: Would You Steal for Me?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

When people talk about saying “no” the discussion usually revolves around why we find it so difficult. We want to help, we don’t want to make the other person feel bad, we are afraid of confrontation, we might feel guilty... the list goes on.  There is usually a chapter on ‘saying no’ in self-help books, and it’s a popular topic for religious leaders and psychologists. They claim that we must be assertive, value ourselves, defend our rights, and seek relationships with healthy foundations.

But there might be a more intrinsic reason why saying no is so difficult: humans are social creatures and are inherently vulnerable to the suggestions of others.

Many of us assume that the favors we ask of others will only be granted if the other person feels comfortable with them, but we fail to realize that simply by asking we are influencing the other’s actions and willingness to oblige.  We don’t consciously think about the degree to which we take cues from other people.

This leads us to underestimate how much power our neighbor who asks us for favors has or the amount of influence we, ourselves, have when we give advice to a relative.  We ask favors and give advice without realizing that the person listening will, more often than not, take what we say on board. We agree to things and we say yes because we are unaware of how easily influenced we are.

So what happens when someone asks a favor that is unethical? Do we realize how easy it is to convince someone, and does this influence our decision to ask for unethical things? Do we recognize our tendency to say yes and do we allow our own sense of morality and ethics triumph?

The Things We Do: Why We Procrastinate

Roxanne Bauer's picture

At the basis of communication and public policy are assumptions about human beings- their rationality or irrationality, their foibles, wants and preferences. A lot depends on whether these assumptions are correct. In this feature, we bring you fascinating examples of human behavior from across the globe.

In our first edition of "The Things We Do," we explore one reason why we procrastinate.  In a blog post from Nautilus, entitled, "Why We Procrastinate," we learn that:

"It turns out that we see our future selves as strangers. Though we will inevitably share their fates, the people we will become in a decade, quarter century, or more, are unknown to us. This impedes our ability to make good choices on their—which of course is our own—behalf. That bright, shiny New Year’s resolution? If you feel perfectly justified in breaking it, it may be because it feels like it was a promise someone else made."


So, if a poor connection to your future self leads to procrastination, can strengthening this connection be an effective remedy as well?


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