Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding. Humans devote 30–40% of speech output solely to informing others of their own subjective experiences. What drives this propensity for disclosure? Here, we test recent theories that individuals place high subjective value on opportunities to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others and that doing so engages neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with reward. Five studies provided support for this hypothesis. Self-disclosure was strongly associated with increased activation in brain regions that form the mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area. Moreover, individuals were willing to forgo money to disclose about the self. Two additional studies demonstrated that these effects stemmed from the independent value that individuals placed on self-referential thought and on simply sharing information with others. Together, these findings suggest that the human tendency to convey information about personal experience may arise from the intrinsic value associated with self-disclosure.Diana I. Tamir and Jason P. Mitchell, Department of Psychology Harvard University. – Dr. Diana Tamir, graduate student in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neurosicence Lab at Harvard University. Using functional neuroimaging and behavioral methods, studies egocentric inferential biases, self-centered communication, and the cognitive and neural mechanisms for escaping our subjective perspective. Prof. Jason Mitchell, Jason employs functional neuroimaging (fMRI) and behavioral methods to study how we infer the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of others (i.e., how we mentalize) as well as how we reason about counterfactual experiences. He received his B.A. and M.S. degrees from Yale University in 1997 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2003. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Sources: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences & Harvard University.
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