Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding

Diana I. Tamir, Jason P. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

381 Scopus citations


Humans devote 30-40%of speech output solely to informing others of their own subjective experiences. What drives this propensity for disclosure? Here, we test recent theories that individuals place high subjective value on opportunities to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others and that doing so engages neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with reward. Five studies provided support for this hypothesis. Self-disclosure was strongly associated with increased activation in brain regions that form the mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area. Moreover, individuals were willing to forgo money to disclose about the self. Two additional studies demonstrated that these effects stemmed from the independent value that individuals placed on self-referential thought and on simply sharing information with others. Together, these findings suggest that the human tendency to convey information about personal experience may arise from the intrinsic value associated with self-disclosure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8038-8043
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 22 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Functional MRI
  • Reward
  • Self-reference
  • Social cognition


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