Behavioural Science Meets Data Science

Changing Behaviours

There has been much recent scrutiny of the real-time, real world experiments that Facebook’s has been conducting with its users. Randomised controlled studies conducted by Facebook have identified measurable changes in the “emotional content” of users’ posts according to the amount of negative and positive messages they were strategically exposed to (for more on Facebook’s emotional contagion study click here and here). Meantime, Facebook’s “Voter Megaphone” campaign, which promotes voting by revealing the names and faces of friends who have already cast votes (and was portrted to have increased voter turnout by some 340,000 in the 2010  elections) has generated further controversy. While the promotion of voting appears to be a good use of social media, the fact that the Voter Megaphone project was also part of a study, and was thus only applied to certain users, raised ethical questions about the real world political impacts of this behavioural…

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