Voicing opinions on Facebook and other social media sites convey a powerful reward to the brain akin to the pleasure from food and sex, concludes a Harvard study.
The study led by two neuroscientists and published this week concluded that "self disclosure" produces a response in the region of the brain associated with dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure or the anticipation of a reward.
The researchers said most people devote 30 to 40 percent of their speech to "informing others of their own subjective experiences" but that on social media, this is closer to 80 percent.
They conclude "that humans so willingly self-disclose because doing so represents an event with intrinsic value, in the same way as with primary rewards such as food and sex."
Although Facebook was not specifically cited in the study, it focused on the brain response of people's "opportunities to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others."
"To the extent that humans are motivated to propagate the products of their minds, opportunities to disclose one's thoughts should be experienced as a powerful form of subjective reward," wrote Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of Harvard's Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab.
The research, published in the May 7 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the study support the notion that humans, like some other primates, will give up some rewards because of a powerful brain response.
The study gave people a small cash reward for answering certain factual questions about things they observe, and a lower reward for offering their own views about a subject. But in many cases, the participants chose a smaller reward if they could talk about themselves.
"Just as monkeys are willing to forgo juice rewards to view dominant groupmates and college students are willing to give up money to view attractive members of the opposite sex, our participants were willing to forgo money to think and talk about themselves," the researchers wrote.