Facebook users don’t exist in a vacuum. Every day their data are used by corporations to manipulate users to buy products or click on certain links. However, the relationship of trust between researchers and participants is a valuable commodity and when it is abused it is costly not only to participants but to researchers as well. Facebook users voiced their opinion about the manipulation and Adam Kramer, the Facebook data scientist who worked on the study, responded by posting this apology: "I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety."
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Facebook is the proverbial gold mine for social and behavioral researchers. Individuals spend hours on it each day documenting their lives, their interactions with others, and their interaction with media. The program collects and analyzes the information, providing an interesting glimpse into various aspects of humanity. The ethics of using Facebook and other social media outlets to gather data is more opaque, however. Facebook users generally post information to a closed group of friends with the expectation that their friends will view the information as part of a normal social interaction. Although the information is posted on the web, some would argue that there is an expectation of privacy. If researchers glean information from Facebook posts without permission, it is similar to a researcher recording a conversation without permission, etc. Engaging participants in a study without their knowledge, particularly by manipulating their newsfeeds, is even more egregious. A Facebook data scientist and two other researchers from the University of California and Cornell University conducted a study in 2012 where they attempted to test the response that users would have to reading negative or positive posts on their newsfeed; they manipulated nearly 700,000 users’ newsfeeds and tracked the users’ responses to see if they mirrored the negativity or remained neutral (i.e. “emotional contagion”). The Facebook users became unwitting participants in a research study without giving permission; in addition to the lack of consent, the participants were manipulated with the intent to influence the individual’s state of being. While an IRB generally approves using manipulation to study participants, there are specific elements that are required to be in place such as the post-consent debriefing that helps the participant to understand the full nature of the study and provides a more complete consent. In a study where the researcher is manipulating emotions and there is the potential to make a participant upset, the debriefing session is particularly important so that the researcher can gauge the mental state of the participant and assess if additional help is needed.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Researchers at the followed a group of Charlottesville, VA, teenagers over a ten year period to gauge whether popularity at age thirteen equates to success ten years down the road. Joseph Allen, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, led the study that was recently published in Child Development. Their conclusion? Popularity in middle school isn't a guarantee for later success in life and it may in fact have negative consequences as well. As young adults, the more popular youths were using 40% more drugs and alcohol than the "not so cool" kids and were 22% more likely to run into trouble with the law. Kelly Wallace, CNN reporter, submitted this detailed report.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Interrogation techniques used by the police force often incorporate stressors that result in confession, sometimes even false confessions. Teenagers are more susceptible to interrogation pressure and may waive Miranda rights or make incriminating statements without having the proper counsel to guide them through the interrogation process, resulting in higher penalties and loner prison sentences. Only twenty percent of a surveyed police force is prepared to interrogate minors, Todd Warner, a U.Va. PHd candidate in Psychology discovered in his recent study. “Police officers have a very difficult job trying to determine who actually perpetuated the crime under investigation, and while they are well-trained on laws and the legal system, many of them lack knowledge on adolescent decision-making, which can have a detrimental effect on suspects who may not be guilty, and also on the proper functioning of the legal system,” Warner said. For more information about this study, check out the UVaToday article as well as other postings on local Charlottesville news stations.
Monday, April 28, 2014
|L-R: Education professor Joanna Lee Williams and psychology professor Noelle Hurd|
Monday, January 13, 2014
|Andrew Mondschein, new faculty member in the |
University of Virginia School of Architecture.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
We've all had moments where the answer we are looking for is on the "tip of the tongue" and as age increases, it is easy to assume the temporary memory lapse and a few extra grey hairs are connected. Dr. Timothy Salthouse and U.Va. undergraduate researcher Arielle Mandell created a study to determine if age and a lapse in the brain's ability to recall facts are related. After quizzing over 700 participants, they initially found that older participants did struggle to recall answers as well as their younger counterparts. But after the researchers factored participants' general knowledge, for example, they found no association between how often the participants' memory recall failed and their performance on the types of memory tests often used in the detection of dementia.
For more information, check out this article on NBC 29.
For more information, check out this article on NBC 29.