• Pawarat Nontasil

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


‘Why is social media so compelling to so many users?’ There is no single, simple answer to this question. The uses and gratifications theory has been used to explore this question, but this theory has examined and analysed human motives in terms of broad features which are at the same level as design. In this thesis, we explored some psychological mechanisms that might provide an explanation for the attraction of Facebook browsing, with particular focus on emotional experiences and how emotional experience is associated with memory.

In this thesis, there were four experiments which took a self- report-based quantitative approach. In the first study, we explored how people retrospectively judge the overall emotional experience of browsing Facebook compared with their emotional judgements of the threads they encounter. The key findings from the first study showed an overall emotionally positive experience of browsing Facebook. The overall emotional valence could be predicted by the peak (most emotional) and the end thread that were encountered: this is the peak – end rule. The recall of threads exhibited a classic serial position effect. In the second study, we focused on the effect of the end experience in an attempt to shift the overall retrospective judgement. The experience of the end thread was depressed by asking the participants to quit browsing after a negative experience. However, the second study showed that there was no evidence of an end-effect on the retrospective emotional judgement, which we attribute to a methodology in which individual thread emotions were polled and reported during the initial browsing episode.

In the third study, we further investigated the peak – end rule by exploring how precise emotion-type labels can reveal further aspects of Facebook browsing experience and, at the same time, by investigating the effect of the medium of Facebook posts on user’ memory and emotions. We found that the interested emotion label played a big role in the emotional experience of Facebook browsing. The medium of video and the medium of text on Facebook posts were better recalled than the picture medium posts. In the final study, we further investigated the interested label in terms of Facebook experience. We found that the main reasons for people being interested in posts on the news feed were closeness of reader to a poster, amount of prior knowledge, and amount of information acquired.

Taken together, the findings offer several insights into the appeal of the Facebook’s news feed for its users. Reading most threads is a positive emotional experience, the overall memory for browsing several threads is even more positive, because it is so influenced by the peak thread; the emotional experience is varied, but the most common response is ‘interested’, which is itself promoted by the closeness of thread-posters, and by the relation of the threads’ topics to the background knowledge of the users.
Date of Award24 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSimon Jones (Supervisor) & Stephen Payne (Supervisor)


  • Emotion
  • the peak - end rule
  • human computer interaction

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