Foursquare, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter do not usually make the list when you talk about the feelings you get when you eat food, get some money, or have sex. Still, according to a recent study released by researchers at Harvard university, the act of revealing information about yourself triggers the same pleasure sensations in our brain which which get when we have sex, get money, or eat food. Of course, it is all about degrees and intensity (it can be safely argued that talking about stuff you did and your accomplishments is not as fun as having sex-well, for most people). Still, the study does show that our brain considers disclosure about one’s self to be a pleasurable or rewarding experience.
This might partly explain why recent surveys of Internet users show that around 80% of social media posts are made up mostly about people’s immediate experiences.
The Harvard study, conducted by Diana Tami and Jason P. Mitchell, involved a set of experiments which seek to measure the reward response people experience when they tell others about themselves. Part of the study involved attaching the subjects to an MRI machine. This allows the reasearchers to view the experiment participants’ brain activities while they are answering questions that had something to do with themselves-their opinions and questions regarding others’ opinions.
According to the study, brain regions that are connected with a reward response, the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area, were strongly in play when people were discussing themselves. These areas were less active when the subjects where talking about other people. The study also found that the subjects would turn down offers of money (we’re talking a few cents here) to talk about somebody else so they can further enjoy talking about themselves.
In the second segment of the study, the researchers looked to investigate how important an audience is in the self-disclosure process. Tamir said that they wanted to see how much of a role having an audience had in the reward feelings people get when talking about themselves. The study indicated that the bigger the audience, the greater the reward activity. The researchers noticed that the individuals who were told that their disclosures will be given to friends or family members had a higher brain reward activity level than those told that their disclosures would be kept private.
No wonder people rack up several hundred friends on Facebook. The larger the audience, the large the perceived sense of reward when disclosing information about one’s self.