PNAS publishes Facebook study with no IRB

Another scandal in the world of social psychology over the past week as it turns out that the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has published an article written by social psychologists, including people at Facebook and other places, that appears to have no IRB approval and which made hundred of thousands of people significantly sadder (or happier) than they might have been if the study hadn’t been conducted.

….and one the most respected members in the field of social psychology edited and accepted the paper.

The best analysis I’ve found of the incident is here:


Travel makes us more cooperative

Does Travel Broaden the Mind? Breadth of Foreign Experiences Increases Generalized Trust


This paper shows that people who travel to more different countries or who are asked to think about the breadth of their foreign travel are more likely to cooperate with others in “trust” games and report higher levels of trust on questionnaires.  This finding fits well with the general idea that tolerance is related to thinking more complexly about our social worlds.  People who are uneducated, untravelled, and who do not seek out a variety of social situations are more fearful and less trusting of others.

Love as self-concern and other-concern

Saint Valentine’s Day evokes some of our strongest emotions.  This is because our close relationships uniquely satisfy two fundamental human motivations.

  • Self-concern (getting things that benefit us)
  • Other-concern (being good to others)

Sometimes our desires for self-concern conflict with our desires for other-concern.

  • We feel good about having a nice car and a good job because these things satisfy our desires for self-concern.  But they do little or nothing to satisfy our needs for other-concern.
  • We may unselfishly help others, perhaps even at a cost to ourselves. We can feel good about doing these things, but these behaviors are at least in part unrewarding, because they do nothing for ourselves.

In other cases self-concern and other-concern work together, and these are the behaviors that make us feel the best, and which are therefore likely to persist.

Loving is prototypical in this regard – we love because it makes us feel good and helps us satisfy our personal desires.  But at the same time we love because we care about those we love.

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.


People care about others.  They want to be liked by others, even loved by them.

When we are separated from others we experience loneliness, one of life’s most unpleasant emotions.

We develop and maintain our relationships with others through the fundamental motivation of other-concern

Other-concern refers to behaviors we engage in that directly help others, including moral behaviors, altruism, and cooperation.

We feel good about ourselves when we engage in other-concern, often even better than we do after doing things that benefit ourselves.

Loving Facebook

It’s hard to avoid the superlatives when it comes to Facebook, the social networking service that is now 8 years old and ready for its Initial Public Offering.

  • 845 million active users
  • Over 40 percent of the US population has a Facebook account
  • Yearly revenue of over $4 billion

And Facebook has changed the lives of its users. We use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and relatives and to meet new friends. We use Facebook to share our ideas and to get new ones. And we use Facebook to feel good about ourselves – there’s really nothing like logging on and finding you’ve been multiply-friended overnight!

Some people believe that using Facebook and other social media are not adequate replacements for direct face-to-face contact with “real” people, and that spending too much time with social media may blunt our social skills.  But there are now over 400 studies looking at the effects of Facebook on everyday behaviors, in both children and adults, and this research shows that Facebook is in fact a healthy way to connect with others.

One recent study, published in the journal Developmental Psychology,1 found that there was no trade-off between having large networks of Facebook friends and the ability to develop intimacy and social support among face-to-face friends.  In fact, the opposite was true. Using Facebook increased the size of college students’ social networks and these larger networks were related to higher levels of life satisfaction and perceived social support. As the authors put it,

“…social networking sites help youth to satisfy enduring human psychosocial needs for permanent relations in a geographically mobile world.”

And many, many, other studies show similar results.

So don’t worry, moms and dads – Facebook is your friend. Your kids are at least as happy, caring, cared for, and emotionally supported on Facebook as they are in school or out with their friends at the mall.  And you have a much better idea where they are.

1Manago, A. M., Taylor, T., & Greenfield, P. M. (2012). Me and my 400 friends: The anatomy of college students’ Facebook networks, their communication patterns, and well-being. Developmental Psychology. Retrieved from



My Textbooks on MERLOT

I’m pleased to announce that Principles of Social Psychology has joined Introduction to Psychology as selections of top open source material on MERLOT

About Merlot (from: )

MERLOT is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy.   MERLOT is a leading edge, user-centered, collection of peer reviewed higher education, online learning materials, catalogued by registered members and a set of faculty development support services.

MERLOT’s strategic goal is to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by increasing the quantity and quality of peer reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty designed courses.