Image: National Institute of Health

I was with my friends at the tailgate, waiting to get some New England clam chowder, when one of my friends spotted some Yalies that he knew from high school. Friendly introductions followed, reminding me of freshman orientation week, when I sat down at Annenberg, exchanged names, and forgot them. But once I discovered that I shared a mutual friend and mutual interest in jazz music with one of the students, we quickly began talking more about ourselves and soon enough, we were officially Facebook friends.

I have always thought that I was an approachable and outgoing person, but I could not determine what exactly drove this propensity to share information about myself. Recently, I discovered a neurophysiological answer to this question. According to a study conducted by Harvard psychologists Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell, individuals find it intrinsically rewarding to disclose personal thoughts to others.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), they monitored the activity of the mesolimbic dopamine system, which includes the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA), as these areas were discovered to respond to rewards. The data showed that the NAcc and VTA responded strongly when participants were disclosing their opinions and thoughts, suggesting the link between disclose of personal thoughts and reward.

From a psychoevolutionary perspective, this makes logical sense, as it has been important to determine the trustworthiness of individuals.




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