Why We Get A Kick Out Of Talking About Ourselves
John Neumann for RedOrbit.com
Why do we, when given the chance, tend to share the most intimate details of our day with just about anyone? From snapping pics of our lunch and tweeting it to friends, to the details of our arguments with loved ones, in general, we love to share, some would say overshare.
New research out of Harvard University shows us it is highly rewarding, reports Diane Mapes of MSNBC. Our brains responds to self-disclosure the same way they respond to pleasure triggers like food, money or sex.
Psychologists have long known that sharing aspects of oneself with other people is a crucial part of human social life, writes Carolyn Y. Johnson for Boston.com. However it’s the escalation from small talk to more personal details that often forms the foundation of friendship and romantic intimacy.
“The internet has drastically expanded the number of mediums through which we can talk about ourselves to other people,” Diana Tamir, a graduate student in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at Harvard and lead author of a study published today in the journal PNAS, told Mapes.
“We were interested in why people engage in self-disclosure so seemingly excessively. The hypothesis we wanted to test was whether or not this behavior provided people with intrinsic or subjective value — did it feel good to do it.”
Five studies involving nearly 300 people were conducted by Tamir and her colleagues, most of them from the Harvard and Cambridge community. In some studies, participants were asked to disclose their own opinions while being scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a technique that directly measures the blood flow in the brain, thereby providing information on brain activity.
Other studies asked participants to complete certain behavioral tasks in exchange for varying amounts of money. Study subjects, as it turns out, were willing to go without 17 to 25 percent of their potential earnings if they could reveal info about themselves to others.
“We called this the ‘penny for your thoughts study,’” says Tamir. “We wanted to know if people would pay money to engage in this behavior — to share information about themselves with other people — and it turns out they will.”
Dr. Hans Breiter, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, told Johnson the research is a good first step toward answering a question of growing importance, especially as the number of tools for sharing increase via the internet online and mobile devices.
He added that the experiments would need to be refined and repeated to truly pinpoint, for example, which brain regions are playing a role in the behavior.