AA #4a: Your Brain on Facebook: Neuropsychological Associations with Social Versus other Media

25 Apr

Article Analysis 4 covers your brain on Facebook. This article takes the time to actually hone in and focus on what is happening when users are exploring social media similar to Facebook, in comparison to other types of media, such as books and TV.

The study consisted of 16 volunteers (10 male, 6 female) who were recruited via mass email and compensated with $15 in dining coupons. The average age amongst them was 30 years old. Participants were required to complete a pre-test survey estimating how much media they used over the course of a week. This covered reading books, using the web, watching television, and specifically using Facebook.

The study required that participants complete two tasks; the first task was Decision Making, where viewers had to decide if images on the screen matched well with a description (typically one worded, such as “Interesting”) with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer within three seconds. This task measured brain activity. The second task had users rate how well the four different categories of media (reading, TV, web, and Facebook) could be described by each of the six concept words (Interesting, Addictive, Frivolous, Personal, Useful, and Story) on a paper questionnaire.

The results showed that overall, Facebook was the more established of the four forms of media tested. It was classified as equally interesting as the other forms of media, more addictive than books and general websites, and personal. It was also found that Facebook was a more useful tool than books and TV. However, based on the brain analysis Facebook was found to be less personal than that of books. It was also suggested that it was much easier to tell coherent stories in in books and television than in Facebook.

The paper establishes within the limitations that some big issues are very present (and they are aware of): this study is analyzing different types of processes, which in turn can potentially make one analysis more ‘true’ than the other. These processes can impact judgment, and thus skew results. While the questionnaire and speed tasks generated similar results, the brain analysis yielded opposite reactions. The researchers also acknowledge that participants of a different demographic might feel much different about the categorization mechanism used, or that results may change entirely. It suggests that other automatic associations should be explored, specifically with a different user population.

Overall, this paper was interesting to read, but somewhat predictable. Facebook has never been marketed/advertised as anything beyond a ‘place to connect with friends.’ While it does offer widgets and tools to try and make it more personalized, it falls short of being deep in thought. It runs on a very high face value, which has been part of our discussions about how Facebook has actively ruined things in real life-there isn’t really a context associated with it. It’s easy to define books as personal because those are a media that, in order to hold interest, you have to become immersed in it. Of course it’s more personal…I have absolute control over everything going on beyond the story itself. The author gives me a story, and I am free to interpret it, AND I want to interpret it. The limitations also bring up blogging as a better means of telling a story, but my primary concern with that statement is the relevance held with American populations, given that it has been suggested that blogs are losing popularity in the States.

-Vanessa B!

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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


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