Talking about ourselves is
just too fun to resist
Why do we like to reflect and talk about ourselves to others?
Our brains find it pleasurable, according to research by Harvard
University social psychology student Diana Tamir, published in May
in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In a series of five studies, Tamir examined the neural and
behavioral components of self-disclosure. Three fMRI experiments,
in which participants alternately talked about their own or someone
else’s opinions and personality traits, showed that sharing information
about oneself sparked activity in the nucleus accumbens and the
ventral tegmental area, two brain regions associated with reward.
In one experiment, 37 people answered a series of questions
about their own or President Barack Obama’s opinions, or answered
true or false to a trivia item. Each choice was linked to a small
amount of money that participants would receive at the end of the
trial. Tamir found that people were willing to give up 17 percent of
potential earnings for the chance to answer more questions about
Another experiment showed that people would forgo money for
the chance to introspect, and give up even more potential earnings
to communicate those thoughts to another person.
“Thinking about the self is rewarding, as is sharing information,”
Tamir says. “So sharing information about the self is doubly
In one study, college students essentially paid money for the
opportunity to answer survey questions about themselves.
People with schizophrenia over-detect eye contact
When asked whether a face was looking at them, people
with schizophrenia were more likely to say “yes” than healthy
controls, according to a study led by Ivy Tso, a clinical
psychology student at the University of Michigan.
In the experiment, 26 people with schizophrenia and 23
healthy participants viewed a series of faces that varied in gaze
direction, head orientation and emotion. Tso and colleagues found
that participants with schizophrenia showed more uncertainty
in perceiving eye contact and were more likely to say ambiguous
faces were looking at them. Furthermore, uncertainty in detecting
eye contact was significantly associated with flatter emotions,
poorer neurocognition and lower emotional intelligence.