“The Craving Mind: talking about ourselves

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Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell at Harvard performed a simple study: they put people in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and gave them the choice of reporting their own opinions and attitudes, judging the attitudes of another person, or answering a trivia question.
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Participants in the study repeated this task almost two hundred times.
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All the while, their brain activity was being measured.
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The catch was that the choices were associated with monetary payoffs.
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For example, in one trial, they might be given a choice between answering a question about themselves or about somebody else, and earn x dollars for choosing the former versus y dollars for the latter.
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The amount of money was varied, as was the category with which the bigger payoff was associated.
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At the end of the study, once all the payoffs had been tallied, the scientists could determine whether people were willing to give up money to talk about themselves.
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And they were.
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On average, participants lost an average of 17 percent of potential earnings to think and talk about themselves!
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Just think about this for a second.
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Why would anyone give up good money to do this?
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Not unlike people who forgo job and family responsibilities because of substance abuse, these participants activated their nucleus accumbens while performing the task.
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Is it possible that the same brain region that lights up when someone smokes crack cocaine or uses any other drug of abuse is also activated when people talk about themselves?
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In fact, the nucleus accumbens is one of the brain regions most consistently linked to the development of addictions.
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So there seems to be a link between the self and reward.
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Talking about ourselves is rewarding, and doing it obsessively may be very similar to getting hooked on drugs.
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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Laurie Schuler on June 15, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Don’t you think constintly talking about ones self may put those you are talking to off after awhile?

  2. Posted by Laurie Schuler on June 15, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    or am I missing the boat?

  3. Posted by Pam on June 17, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Laurie, I agree with you!

    If talking about ourselves is found to be rewarding and obsessively talking about ourselves is very similar to getting hooked on drugs, does that mean the evils and ugliness of addiction will also prevail?
    If that’s so, wouldn’t it be just as rewarding to find a happy medium between listening and speaking? Obviously, a listener is going to appreciate a balance, the speaker’s skills would become more socially appropriate, thereby providing greater opportunity for communication, learning and understanding. A reward I’d think to be far more rewarding than that of addiction.

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