Self-Disclosure Linked to Activation of Reward in Brain

Individuals are willing to forgo money to self-disclose; doing so activates reward mechanisms

TUESDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- Self-disclosure is associated with increased activation in regions of the brain linked with reward, according to research published online May 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Diana I. Tamir, and Jason P. Mitchell, Ph.D., from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., investigated the driving force behind the propensity for human disclosure of their own subjective experience. Specifically, they looked for evidence in support of the hypothesis that individuals place high subjective value on opportunities to communicate their thoughts and feelings, and that doing so activates neural and cognitive mechanisms linked to reward.

The researchers identified five studies that provided support for the hypothesis. Self-disclosure correlated strongly with elevated activation in the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area, which are included in the mesolimbic dopamine system. To disclose about themselves, individuals were willing to forgo money. In two studies, these effects stemmed from the independent value that individuals put on sharing information with others and on self-referential thought.

"Intriguingly, findings also suggested that both parts of 'self-disclosure' have reward value," the authors write. "Although participants were willing to forgo money merely to introspect about the self and doing so was sufficient to engage brain regions associated with the rewarding outcomes, these effects were magnified by knowledge that one's thoughts would be communicated to another person, suggesting that individuals find opportunities to disclose their own thoughts to others to be especially rewarding."

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