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May 28, 2012

How the brain’s reward system makes sharing personal information on social media so compelling.



The thrill behind Twittering. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking websites allow people to share details about their lives with others. Diana Tamir and her colleagues at Harvard University found that self-disclosure, or sharing personal information, triggered the brain’s reward system, causing these actions to feel good. While in a brain scanner, they asked people questions, including some that were personal. The answers were either kept private or shared with a friend.

DIANA TAMIR – (Harvard University):

The task where people were able to answer questions about themselves – and in particular when they were answering questions about themselves and sharing those answers with an audience – we found that those conditions had the most robust reward responses.


Tamir likens the brain’s response to that of eating good food.  She explains that Facebook and Twitter may be so popular because they provide an opportunity for people to engage in rewarding behavior. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

A new study offers insights into why sharing personal information on social media sites is so compelling to us. (Jupiter Images)