General Question

flo's avatar

Is this an ad for Facebook or (EDIT:actual) news? "More friends on facebook equals bigger Amygdala in your brain"?

Asked by flo (13313points) January 5th, 2011

It is on the news today (January 5/2010) Look below for the link.

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20 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

It’s a real scientific study, published in Nature Neuroscience last week.

You know what they say about correlation and causation, though. It’s a fun finding, but I’m not sure it adds much scientifically.

flo's avatar

@nikipedia I know it is a study, but it could have been any social network site right, not necessarily Facebook? That is what I meant. The fact that the name Facebook gets mentioned is in itself avaluable thing for Facebook, even if it big enough already.

ETpro's avatar

Being the amygdala is the fear center, I don’t think I’d see having a bigger one as a blessing. You need enough to keep yourself alive, but too much is a curse leaving one afraid of their own shaddow and convinced of hiddne plots behind every glance thrown in their direction by a passing stranger on the street.

nikipedia's avatar

@flo: Sure, in theory, any social networking site should produce the same results if the finding is real. A friend of mine actually works in the lab that produced that finding, so I feel reasonably confident in saying that the lab never intended it as advertising for facebook!

@ETpro: My adviser would throw me out of the lab if I didn’t argue with you :) The amygdala (we believe!) is not specifically involved in fear per se, but is responsible for modulating any kind of emotionally arousing memory encoding. It became known as the “fear center” largely through the work of scientists who only ever did experiments using fear conditioning, which is an easy and reliable experimental technique, but hardly captures the full range of emotions the amygdala is involved with. Since fear is emotionally arousing, any time you’re afraid the amygdala will kick in. But the amygdala is by no means only activated by fear.

ETpro's avatar

@nikipedia Thanks for the additional info on its function. I know that they are treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in returning soldiers with drugs to modulate the amygdala’s activity level.

ragingloli's avatar

What good is a bigger amygdala when the rest of your brain has shrivelled into a raisin?

anartist's avatar

This is quite disturbing—emotional involvement with people online stimulates one of the most primitive parts of the brain, arousing more emotion than involvement with living breathing human beings that one can fight, flee, or fuck in the flesh?
Also quite peculiar—one would think online social networking without an immediate physical presence would engage higher levels of the brain rather than stimulate one of the most primitive sections of the brain

ETpro's avatar

@anartist I don’t think the study links Facebook use as a cause of growth in the amygdala. It’s more likely that people with unusually large amygdalas are more emotional and form bonds with a larger number of people. If they are on Facebook, that would lead to the big amyg crowd having more Facebook friends.

nikipedia's avatar

@anartist: I wouldn’t call the amygdala “primitive.” And I don’t think this study suggests that it arouses more emotion than with real people. Beyond the fact that there is no “real person” control group, this study doesn’t even look at activity in the amygdala—just size.

anartist's avatar

@nikipedia Thanks. A little checking on wikipedia for amygdala gave me a better perspective on the various aspects of amigdalar function, especially this section Neuropsychological correlates of amygdalar activity

the100thmonkey's avatar

The study notes a correlation between the size of a person’s social network (which is not necessarily co-extensive with the size of an online social network) and the size of their amygdala . It would take a separate study to establish a relatinship between amygdala size and the number of people in one’s facebook friends list.

I don’t think it’s an ad for Facebook. it’s more likely just lazy journalism.

flo's avatar

Did the Amaygdala come to exist since the internet? People who have never even seen a computer can’t have a large group of friends etc.? Of course not.

My question is not so much about whether Facebook concocted the whole “study”, but that it is a free ad. (although all kinds of studies are funded by the interested parties) how journalists don’t question anything. They just act like puppets. Remember that story about the woman on a cellphone in a 1920’s movie?

@nikipedia A friend of mine actually works in the lab that produced that finding, so I feel reasonably confident in saying that the lab never intended it as advertising for facebook!
Maybe your friend, or my friend, if I had one who worked there, would never think of getting involved in concocting a free ad for Facebook, but that is still not a scientific way of investigating anything, right?

nikipedia's avatar

@flo: I don’t follow; what’s unscientific?

Axemusica's avatar

“Maybe your friend, or my friend, if I had one who worked there, would never think of getting involved in concocting a free ad for Facebook, but that is still not a scientific way of investigating anything, right?”

Isn’t that the same thing as saying that Michelin never made a better tire because they already had proved they could make a tire? Or that magazines can’t have any real knowledge because it’s only a few pages and not an actual book?

flo's avatar

If I worked at BP, and imagine my friend Mary said “my friend flo works at BP, so I feel reasonably confident in saying that there won’t be a spill, they just are too responsible” It is neither here nor there.

Axemusica's avatar

You basically just repeated my argument. Michelin does do research to constantly try and improve their tires, both on and off the track. There are magazines out there that do produce very intellectual knowledge in short bursts… And BP makes mistakes. Point being, you can’t say it’s not scientific, because you don’t feel data could be pulled from a place you wouldn’t think to look for data. Would you check your shit to see how your diet is? See where I’m going with this?

I believe there’s valid data to be had in this scientific adventure. It’s new, as science should always be. It’s pertaining to effects based on said subject, be it Facebook, myspace, or even youporn. Data is data, regardless where it came from, there’s data to be studied.

flo's avatar

My previous to last post should read: ’‘Did the Amaygdala come to exist since the internet? Of course not.’’

A paragraph from

Does the Amygdala Have a Social Network?

First of all, the size of the amygdala has absolutely nothing to do with Facebook or any other contemporary social networking site. The scale for quantifying social network size and complexity was taken from a 1997 paper on Social Ties and Susceptibility to the Common Cold (Cohen et al., 1997), which in turn cited a book chapter from 1991. There was no such thing as Facebook or Myspace in 1997, only Geocities (1994) and (1995). As for the history of online communities, The WELL was launched in 1985 as a bulletin board system and could be considered as a proto-social networking site.

So who was included in Cohen et al.‘s (1997) definition of a social network? One requirement was that the participant spoke to the individual in person or on the phone at least once every two weeks:

the100thmonkey's avatar

If people think “facebook” when they read an article in a popular magazine/blog/website that doesn’t make the distinction between social networks and facebook, it’s not advertising per se, it’s a result of lazy journalism.

It’s a journalist’s responsibility to properly frame the things they are writing about.

flo's avatar

@anartist the original article “Amygdala volume and social network size in humans”. I guess this other website took the “social network” and thought “social network sites”? I don’t know. That still doesn’t translate to just Facebook, anyway but it works as an ad because I first heard it on the radio, “Facebook….”, it had spread.
I did read an article (which I can’t find now) says a/the study looked at teminally ill people with active Facebook life.

flo's avatar

Comment poster Kldev put it much better than me. From:
“Oh my god! The number of media outlets I’ve seen misinterpret this study is just utterly insane! Read the article. Facebook is not mentioned once, and Facebook networks were not the target of the study. The article says nothing about the 58 study subjects’ Facebook friends, rather it said there was a moderate correlation between their amygdala size and “the complexity of their social relationships.” From the study:”

“The Social Network Index assesses participation in 12 types of social relationships. These include relationships with a spouse, parents, parents-in-law, children, other close family members, close neighbors, friends, workmates, schoolmates, fellow volunteers (eg, charity or community work), members of groups without religious affiliations (eg, social, recreational, or professional), and members of religious groups. One point is assigned for each type of relationship (possible score of 12) for which respondents indicate that they speak (in person or on the phone) to someone in that relationship at least once every 2 weeks. The total number of persons with whom they speak at least once every 2 weeks (number of network members) was also assessed.”

“Reference 9 from the Nature Neuroscience paper: Cohen, S., Doyle, W.J., Skoner, D.P., Rabin, B.S. & Gwaltney, J.M. Jr. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 277, 1940–1944 (1997)”.

“This degree of misreporting is disgusting.”

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