The researchers found that certain parts of the brain were more active when people talked about themselves. In terms of monetary value, participants valued being able to share a thought as being worth about a penny, Tamir said: "We like to call it a penny for your thoughts."
So, why did evolution encourage humans to feel good when they talk about themselves? "We're doing some tests to see what larger role this behavior may play, whether people's motivation to self-disclose changes depending on their motivations to bond with someone," Tamir said. "Some studies show that the more you self-disclose to someone, the more you like them, the more they like you. It may have something to do with forming social bonds."
Paul Zak, a brain researcher and founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, said the findings are "very convincing" and offer insight into human evolution.
"If a social creature did not disclose information, then other creatures might stop interacting with it," he said. "Animals do this with smells and movements, and humans do this with language. This study reveals how our brain evolved to motivate sociality, which is pretty cool."
To learn more about the brain, try Harvard's brain atlas.
SOURCES: Diana I. Tamir, graduate student, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Paul Zak, Ph.D., chair and professor, economics, and founding director, Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, Calif.; May 7-11, 2012, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online
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