Friday, December 10, 2010

The Psychology of Facebook

Of the 20 most popular websites in the world, 13 relate to corporations that have European headquarters in Ireland: Ebay, Google, Yahoo and Facebook. The last three of these corporations have been the source of much commentary on this blog. Facebook (FB) has 1.5 millions users in Ireland and it is competing strongly with Google for web-user time-allocation. The chart below (from comScore/Citi) shows FB's increasing share of web-user time-allocation since 2006. FB has an explicit interest in internet economics and it has been mentioned many times before on this blog: from ambient awareness to the App Economy, FB search data to Mulley Com's study of FB eye-tracking, the choice architecture of FB, the FB Global Happinness Index, and of course, the debate on whether FB-use hurts students' grades.

Earlier this week in the Irish Times, Eoin Burke Kennedy wrote an interesting article about the psychology of FB. "Extroverted people tend to have more friends on Facebook but reveal less about themselves while introverts disclose more personal details but to a smaller group." Extraversion is one of the Big 5 personality traits: often discussed on this blog in the context of non-cognitive ability. Here and here, for example. The Big 5 personality traits have also been discussed on this blog before - in relation to social networking and web-users' choice of email address. Readers who find these topics interesting may want to read about the developing field of cyberpsychology - this subject encompasses all the psychological phenomena that are associated with or affected by emerging technology.

The content of the Irish Times article (mentioned above) is based on work by Dublin Business School psychologist Dr Ciarán McMahon. "McMahon has conducted an extensive review of the psychological literature on Facebook to better understand what makes it tick". McMahon runs a blog, PsychBook Research, which links to one of his recent presentations: "Facebook and psychology: What we know so far". While the Geary Blog has often mentioned the career opportunities for economists in corporations such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft; and opportunities for applied economists in private sector firms such as Netflix, SeatGeek, Yapta, Inon and Nielsen; opportunities for psychologists seem likely in Facebook, and in other Web 2.0 commerce.

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