Today you’ll typically spend 30 – 40% of your time talking – about yourself, and typically 80% of social media like Twitter are announcements of our immediate experiences. You’re probably even willing to give up money to talk about yourself, according to new research out of Harvard.
And the research suggests that talking about ourselves is as basic a need as food or sex. Lead researcher Diana I. Tamir says that when we talk about ourselves our brain fires up in the areas that are thought to be associated with reward. She’s seen activation in the mesolimbic dopamine system which works off enjoyable experiences, including desire and reward.
“This helps to explain why people so obsessively engage in this behavior. It’s because it provides them with some sort of subjective value: It feels good, basically,” she said.
Diana, of the Social Cognitive and Affective Neurosicence Lab did five studies in all. People, she found, gave independent value to self referential thought and on simply sharing information with others.
“Self-disclosure is a behavior that we do all of the time, day in and day out: When you talk to people, they’ll often talk about themselves,” Tamir said. “On Twitter andFacebook, people are primarily posting about what they’re thinking and feeling in the moment. This is one piece of evidence about why we may do that,” she told HealthDay.
It’s all about expanding the amount of know how a single person can acquire in a life time, Diana Tamir and her co-author Jason P. Mitchell write “by engendering social bonds and social alliances between people ; by eliciting feedback from others to attain self knowledge; by taking advantage of performance advantages that result from sharing one’s sensory experience; or by obviating the need to discover firsthand what others already know”.
We may simply need, as a species, to convey our personal experience, in order to mark our own place in the world.
This is wonderful research to conjure with – it explains why people are willing to pay for therapists, for example. And why bosses allow people to slack off when they’re talking to them. And it may provide some foundation for the biological basis of narcissism, although Diana told News U Can Use that they didn’t find a relationship between narcissism and reward people felt from self-disclosure.
Too much self disclosure by others can leave us uncomfortable. Revelations are most easily accepted when they’re reciprocal, and given over time.
“There is some earlier work that self-disclosure should be reciprocal, rather than one sided, and equivalent in depth between both parties. I do have some other research which suggests that people also enjoy receiving information from other people, especially if they have solicited that information themselves,” she told us.
And finally if self disclosure is rewarding – does that explain why keeping secrets can be so hard? And how is the reward for keeping a secret greater than disclosing it?