Similar satisfaction from Facebook as with sex

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The self-disclosure on Facebook activates the same brain regions as after a good meal or sex

Scientists at Harvard University have examined the behavior of people who regularly use virtual networks like Facebook. It turned out that entries on the platform trigger the same effects in brain regions as after a good meal or sex. Users seem to feel satisfied when they share personal experiences or opinions with other people.

Emotional effect through self-disclosure For many people, a daily look at the Facebook network page is part of the daily ritual. If people reveal very personal things to their virtual “circle of friends” and describe, for example, a personal point of view on a topic, this has a similar effect as a sexual act or tasty food, like the scientists around study director Diana Tamir from Harvard University in Cambridge in Massachusetts found out in the Proceedings of the US Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Social networks today enable a large number of people to express their opinions anytime, anywhere. "People devote 30 to 40 percent of their speaking time solely to report information about their own subjective experiences," the researchers write in their study report. But what drives this “tendency towards revelation”? The researchers believe that it is obviously the inner urge to tell something about themselves. The self-revelation would then be perceived as a reward at the moment. Thereby "neuronal and cognitive mechanisms are associated with reward".

Activation of Special Brain Regions A total of five previous studies were used to support the hypothesis in the meta-study. It was shown in the course of an investigated study that the self-disclosure was accompanied by the activation of special brain regions, which led to a release of dopamine. Dopamine is also released during sex or tasty food and is colloquially a so-called happiness hormone. In another study, the subjects were offered money to disclose their self-image. Most of the study participants refused money, however, and also told so freely about their thoughts and experiences. From these and other results, the US researchers now deduce that there is a human inclination to share personal experiences with others.

Degree of effect not measured Although the same brain regions are activated during self-disclosure as during sex or eating well, the researchers were unable to determine how high the subsequent degree of satisfaction was. Accordingly, "we have not proven that self-disclosure affects these neural regions at the same level as other rewarding effects," the study author writes in the report.

These effects are presumably much stronger if the self-disclosure is confirmed. So it seems explainable that many people are very pleased when they look into their Facebook profile and others have already commented positively on their entries or clicked the "Like" button. If there are still more than 50 “likes”, this represents an indicator of one's own attractiveness for some participants. According to a further US study, social networks therefore contain a great potential for addiction, which is probably more pronounced than with cigarettes or alcohol . (sb)

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Image: Alexander Klaus /

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Video: Comparison: Human Pleasure


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