By Laura Shin
Posting in Food
Addicted to Facebook? That may be because sharing with others activates the same kind of pleasure as having sex.
Let's put it this way: If you find yourself looking forward to writing a Facebook status update or a Twitter post, the reason is that sharing activates the same centers in the brain that give us pleasure in food, money and ... you guessed it, sex.
Or so say researchers at Harvard, who conducted three studies on what happens in our brains when we talk about ourselves -- whether in conversation or on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
"Self-disclosure is extra rewarding," neuroscientist Diana Tamir, who conducted the experiments with colleague Jason Mitchell, told The Wall Street Journal. "People were even willing to forgo money in order to talk about themselves," she said.
Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The three experiments
The dozens of test subjects were volunteers, mostly Americans, who lived near Harvard. Here's how Tamir and Mitchell determined what happens in the brain when we talk about ourselves:
Scanning the brain
In one study, they hooked subjects up to fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanners, which monitor blood flow in the neurons associated with mental activity. They then had the subjects speak about themselves and answer questions about other people's opinions. The fMRI showed which areas of the brain responded strongly when people talk about their own opinions.
As the LA Times says, "The researchers found that the brain regions associated with reward -- the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) -- were strongly engaged when people were talking about themselves, and less engaged when they were talking about someone else." Those are the areas that also get triggered when we get pleasure from food, money or sex.
Earn or self-disclose
In another study, the researchers offered the participants money (okay, it was between one and four cents) depending on what they chose to talk about: themselves, other people such as President Obama or facts.
The payment amounts varied across all questions, but people did not consistently choose the highest-paying topic. They were willing to give up 17% of their potential profit in order to do what was more enjoyable: talk about themselves. When the potential gain was equal, people chose to talk about themselves two-thirds of the time.
Need an audience?
Finally, the scientists also looked at whether having an audience influences how much pleasure you get from self-disclosure. They wanted to understand whether self-disclosure was rewarding because people got pleasure from thinking about themselves or because from they liked knowing that someone else would hear the disclosure.
When people had the choice of keeping their ideas to themselves or sharing them, they were willing to forgo 25% of their potential earnings in order to have an audience.
Social media explained
Well, if you've ever wondered just why someone who just robbed a house would then brag about it on Facebook or why someone would feel the need to tell the Twitterverse that they are about to eat a ham sandwich, now you know. In fact, recent surveys of Internet use show that about four in five social media posts simply announce what the poster is experiencing at that moment.
"I think the study helps to explain why people utilize social media websites so often," Tamir said. "I think it helps explain why Twitter exists and why Facebook is so popular, because people enjoy sharing information about each other."
Related on SmartPlanet:
- What turns a man's mind to mush? A female observer
- A piece of clothing that boosts your brain power
- $300 million to find out how the brain perceives
- Study finds hormone that predicts how long love will last
- A well-placed magnet could make people more honest, study says
- Using the Internet affects your memory, study says
photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr
May 8, 2012
So often we feel pride in our accomplishments, but also feel it tactless and fatheaded to express that pride, that joy, that sense of self-satisfaction. However, I imagine its important that we genuinely acknowledge our own worth, the things that make us worthy of life, love, respect ... perhaps even awe. Recently, I created a blog called "Brag" -- a forum in which visitors may anonymously brag on their accomplishments without fear of being judged. There, folks have a chance to beam, a chance to internalize and revel in their good works. This project means a lot to me; we have to learn how to be honest with ourselves, to own our strengths as passionately as we own our screw-ups, to allow ourselves to a self-allotted pat on the back. Just as the quote on the blogs sidebar reads: "I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate ones self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate ones own powers." --Sherlock Holmes in The Greek Interpreter I hope y'all will visit. http://goaheadandbrag.blogspot.com/
Telling everyone about everything and then complaining about the lack of privacy ................... HUH ?