Katherine Milkman, ClickZ, Online Viral Content

Katherine Milkman, ClickZ, Online Viral Content

An article in ClickZ, a national marketing news publication, spotlights the 2012 study of online content diffusion by LDI Senior Fellow Katherine Milkman. The ClickZ piece explores the controversy surrounding Facebook's recent "emotional contagion study" that altered the positive and negative flow of content to more than 600,000 of its users' news feeds to measure whether those changes affected the mood of the users' own later posts. The Facebook work, published in the Psychological and Cognitive Sciences journal, has sparked controversy because it made Facebook users subjects in a scientific study without their permission.

Milkman's 2012 work studied three months of the most widely shared content published in the online edition of the New York Times to determine why some content is more likely to go "viral." The Milkman study's conclusion -- that virality is driven by the psychological arousal caused by the content -- is similar to the conclusion reached by Facebook reseachers who found that positive posts that elicited a happy mood were more likely to be passed on by users.

Milkman, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Operations and Information Management at Penn's Wharton School and an affiliated faculty member at the LDI Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE).