While 689,000 Facebook users were horrified to learn they had unknowingly been part of a study in June, new research says social media has opened up a new digital world for psychology experiments that's unlikely to lose steam.
Scholars are hard at work developing new methods of leveraging social media to study personality, mental health, language and cross-cultural differences, reveals research presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology's 16th Annual Conference held in Long Beach, California this past week.
Facebook continues to be the go-to source for personality assessment, for a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reveals algorithms developed for that purpose by analyzing 66,732 users' word choices.
Consenting participants then self-reported their personalities, and they matched the algorithms analysis.
Another Facebook study, published in the journal Assessment, concluded that certain phrases indicate different personality traits.
For example, the 69,792 participants helped the researchers to conclude that the most neurotic of us all are more likely to use words such as 'sadness,' 'loneliness,' 'fear' or 'pain.'
The researchers remarked that the data generated from this study could be more reliable than data collected by means of traditional written questionnaires.
Although the reaction from social media users of their favorite sites becoming research hotbeds has been unenthusiastic at best, advances are promising.
A language study using Twitter turned out to be an adequate predictor of who would get heart disease.
"Language associated with anger, negative emotions, hostility and disengagement within a community was associated with increased rates of heart disease," explains lead author Johannes Eichstaedt, "Language expressing positive emotions and engagement was associated with reduced risk."
While the participants in these studies appear to have been willing, users are reminded that their social media profiles reveal a lot about them whether or not they are being used for research.