Why are we compelled to divulge information on social media?

9 May 2012

Ever wonder why some of your Facebook friends feel the need to drone on about what they have had for breakfast or like to ‘Check In’ at every available opportunity? Well psychologists at Harvard University have revealed why some of us are compelled to share our every thought.

Apparently, disclosing such information about ourselves is intrinsically rewarding in the same way as when the brain is activated during primary rewards, such as food or sex.

Research carried out by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell from the Department of Psychology at Harvard University has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.

It seems that us humans like to spend between 30-40pc of our everyday speech divulging personal information about ourselves. Why? Well, Tamir and Mitchell, in their research, decided to test some recent theories about self-disclosure and why we place such a high value on it.

According to Tamir and Mitchell, such subjective disclosure about the self engages part of the brain to trigger value for the individual in the same way as the pleasure centres of the brain are activated when we get intrinsic rewards, such as food, sex or money.

As part of their study, the duo start off by referring to recent internet research that pointed to how more than 80pc of posts to social networking sites such as Twitter pertain to our own immediate experiences.

Tamir and Mitchell carried out five studies on self-disclosure using neuro-imaging and cognitive methods.

During their study, the researchers also found some of the participants were willing to forgo money so they could disclose information about their personal experiences.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic