Talking and thinking about yourself feels good. Sharing creates a bond, heightens pleasure and promotes learning and teamwork. Introspection alone is helpful and pleasurable. -- This must be why we blog and go on social media..
1. Let people talk about themselves.
People spend 60% of their conversations talking about themselves.
It feels good: Harvard researchers have found that talking about yourself activates the same brain regions as sex, cocaine, and a good meal.
“Activation of this system when discussing the self suggests that self-disclosure like other more traditionally recognized stimuli, may be inherently pleasurable,” Scientific American reports, “and that people may be motivated to talk about themselves more than other topics.”
Research shows that when people disclose information about themselves, they like each other more. It’s also the primary way to form social bonds, or another way of saying it helps earn their respect.
Observational studies of human conversations in relaxed social settings
suggest that these consist predominantly of exchanges of social informa-
tion (mostly concerning personal relationships and experiences). Most of
these exchanges involve information about the speaker or third parties,
and very few involve critical comments or the soliciting or giving of
advice. Although a policing function may still be important (e.g., for
controlling social cheats), it seems that this does not often involve overt
criticism of other individuals' behavior. The few significant differences
between the sexes in the proportion of conversation time devoted to
particular topics are interpreted as reflecting females' concerns with net-
working and males' concerns with self-display in what amount to a con-
ventional mating lek.
This experiment left at least one question unanswered, however. Although participants were revealing information about themselves, it was unclear whether or not anyone was paying attention; they were essentially talking without knowing who (if anyone) was on the other end of the line. Thus, the reward- and motivation-related neural responses ostensibly produced by self-disclosure could be produced by the act of disclosure—of revealing information about the self to someone else—but they could also be a result of focusing on the self more generally—whether or not anyone was listening.
In order to distinguish between these two possibilities, the researchers conducted a follow-up experiment. In this experiment, participants were asked to bring a friend or relative of their choosing to the lab with them; these companions were asked to wait in an adjoining room while participants answered questions in a fMRI machine. As in the first study, participants responded to questions about either their own opinions and attitudes or the opinions and attitudes of someone else; unlike in the first study, these participants were explicitly told whether their responses would be “shared” or “private”; shared responses were relayed in real time to each participant’s companion and private responses were never seen by anyone, including the researchers.
In this study, answering questions about the self always resulted in greater activation of neural regions associated with motivation and reward (i.e., NAcc, VTA) than answering questions about others, and answering questions publicly always resulted in greater activation of these areas than answering questions privately. Importantly, these effects were additive; both talking about the self and talking to someone else were associated with reward, and doing both produced greater activation in reward-related neural regions than doing either separately.
These results suggest that self-disclosure—revealing personal information to others—produces the highest level of activation in neural regions associated with motivation and reward, but that introspection—thinking or talking about the self, in the absence of an audience—also produces a noticeable surge of neural activity in these regions. Talking about the self is intrinsically rewarding, even if no one is listening.
Talking about the self is not at odds with the adaptive functions of communication. Disclosing private information to others can increase interpersonal liking and aid in the formation of new social bonds—outcomes that influence everything from physical survival to subjective happiness. Talking about one’s own thoughts and self-perceptions can lead to personal growth via external feedback. And sharing information gained through personal experiences can lead to performance advantages by enabling teamwork and shared responsibility for memory. Self-disclosure can have positive effects on everything from the most basic of needs—physical survival—to personal growth through enhanced self-knowledge; self-disclosure, like other forms of communication, seems to be adaptive.