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Tuesday, 29 July 2014 11:36

OkCupid says psychology experiments on users are normal Featured

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Online dating site OkCupid has laughed in the face of critics of Facebook's controversial experimentation methods, in a new blog posted titled 'We Experimented on Human Beings!'.

The blog not only admits that OkCupid toyed with its 30 million users, but is out and out proud of the fact. It reads, "if you use the Internet, you're the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work." 

The dating site, which is perhaps resorting to shock value in a bid to pry users away from Tinder, performed (at least) three different studies on its users without telling them.

It comes mere weeks after Facebook faced a massive backlash for experimenting on nearly 700,000 of its users, also without letting them know.

One of the OkCupid studies, dubbed "Love Is Blind, Or Should Be" found out that people are shallow - through a 'Love is Blind' day. OkCupid took down users' photos for seven hours, and found an increase in user engagement and deeper conversations. The site said its service just "worked better."

In another, "The Power of Suggestion," OkCupid effectively said its algorithms don't work. The site took what it considered “bad matches”, aka people you're not supposed to get along with at all, and recommended them as “good matches.” Users not only messaged people they were told they were compatible with, but they actually got along, too.

"We took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match)," OkCupid's Christian Rudder said.

"When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other."

A footnote on the blog reads that after the “experiment was concluded, the users were notified of the correct match percentage,” but it doesn’t say whether they were told they were part of an experiment or not.

A month ago or so Facebook came under heavy fire Facebook users are pushing back after news surfaced of a "massive experiment" in which users were unwitting participants in a study of how social media posts affected their moods.

The controversial study was conducted back in 2012 and used Facebook to see if moods can be transferred without face-to-face interaction.

For one week (11- 18 January 2012), nearly 700,000 news feeds were controlled by Facebook in order to reduce either negative or positive posts and then monitored how users responded, according to a published study called “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks.”

Some users were shown content predominately made up of happy and positive words, while some were shown content analysed as sadder than average. And, at the conclusion of the week, these manipulated users were more likely to post either especially positive or negative words themselves.

A spokeswoman for OkCupid said planned to continue with the experiments, known in tech circle as A/B testing.

But experimenting on users without their consent could cost the company credibility, said Irina Raicu, director of the internet ethics program at Santa Clara University.

"They are messing with emotions and with communications," she said. "That's different than other things we are A/B tested about."

For more information on the OKCupid experiments see the blog post in full here.

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