Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 22;109(21):8038-43. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1202129109. Epub 2012 May 7.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Communication
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Personality / physiology
  • Reward*
  • Self Concept
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*


  • Dopamine