In late June 2014, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published an article (http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full.pdf, http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.short?rss=1&ssource=mfr)
detailing an experiment conducted via Facebook in which the news feeds of approximately 700,000 users’ Newsfeeds were manipulated by editing whether the user received more “positive” or “negative” news and stories in order to determine how the emotional valence of these stories would affect the users’ own postings. Researchers named this effect “emotional contagion” and found that these social network moods directly affected the users’ own mood presentations as evidenced by their subsequent posts. Per the paper’s abstract:
“In an experiment with people who use Facebook, we test whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks. This work also suggests that, in contrast to prevailing assumptions, in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not strictly necessary for emotional contagion, and that the observation of others’ positive experiences constitutes a positive experience for people.”
Many critics of this study have argued that Facebook, and these researchers, may have violated ethical principles with this research. What do you think?
For this extra credit assignment, please answer the following questions:
1. Identify at least three possible moral dilemmas or concerns associated with this experiment. Discuss why you believe these may be a problem or concern.
2. Choose two moral theories studied thus far in class. For each theory, provide an analysis of this situation with specific references to relevant features of the theory.
3. Based on your two chosen theories and above analysis, provide a detailed decision-making analysis that answers “Was this experiment morally justifiable (based on this theory)?”
4. Based on your moral worldview, tell me what you think about this experiment. Do you believe it was ethical? Why or why not? Detail your concerns or lack of concern about this and what this kind of experiment could mean for the future of technology, research, and social relationships.
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- Submitted On 25 Dec, 2014 09:46:31