This Is Your Brain on Facebook

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That little zing you get when someone “likes” your picture or sings your praises on Facebook? That’s the reward center in your brain getting a boost.

And that response can predict how much time and energy you put into the social media site, according to new research.

In one of the first studies to connect social media use and brain imaging data, scientists led by Dar Meshi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Freie Universität in Berlin, imaged the brains of 31 Facebook users while they viewed pictures of either themselves or others that were accompanied by positive captions. The research was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

“We found that we could predict the intensity of people’s Facebook use outside the scanner by looking at their brain’s response to positive social feedback inside the scanner,” says Meshi. Specifically, a region called the nucleus accumbens, which processes rewarding feelings about food, sex, money and social acceptance became more active in response to praise for oneself compared to praise of others. And that activation was associated with more time on the social media site.

MORE: Facebook Party Pic Posters May Not Make Bad Employees

Social affirmation tends to be one of life’s great joys, whether it occurs online or off, so it’s not surprising that it would light up this area. Few people are immune to the lures of flattery, after all. But do these results suggest that the “likes” on Facebook can become addictive? While all addictive experiences activate the region, such activation alone isn’t sufficient to establish an addiction.

It does, however, raise the interesting possibility that these affirmations might be the first step toward an addiction for some people, since Facebook use also shares another property common to addictive behaviors. On the social media site, the pleasure deriving from attention, kind words, likes, and LOLs from others occurs only sporadically. Such a pattern for rewards is far more addictive than receiving a prize every time, in part because the brain likes to predict rewards, and if it can’t find a pattern, it will fuel a behavior until it finds one. So if the rewards are random, the quest may continue compulsively. “Our research is a nice first step in making the neurobiological link between social media addiction and reward activity in the brain,” says Meshi.

MORE: Your Facebook ‘Likes’ May Be More Revealing Than You Think

Facebook may draw people in by making them feel connected— but it keeps them coming back because so many of us take pleasure in knowing that we’re liked.

50 comments
CompanyReviews
CompanyReviews

I wonder if this is why so many people get addicted to Facebook. It's sort of like a drug I guess, right? I mean, if you are getting reward signals from your brain when someone 'likes' your post, don't you think that causes some sort of addiction to facebook? This is just great marketing and advertising I think. There is a company in Raleigh, North Carolina who focuses on this sort of research in advertising trends called 312 Marketing. You can read some of the reviews of 312 Marketing on Twitter and Facebook and see what I'm talking about. If I had a million + bucks, this is probably how I would create a product as well.

CompanyReviews
CompanyReviews

I forgot. Another thing about 312 Marketing in Raleigh, NC is that they have actually commented on the relationship between social media engagement and social withdrawal. Have you ever noticed the people in social environments actually on Facebook at the time? Like at the bar or at a restaurant with their family? If you really want more insight, watch these reviews of 312 Marketing on Youtube and see what their employees are saying about the advertising industry. Facebook isn’t any different.

CompanyReviews
CompanyReviews

One other place to find some 312 Marketing reviews is on their website. They have an entire section devoted to the market research on social media sites. These companies have huge advertising budgets and are probably going to be running the way we do things in the future. It would be wise to read about all of this stuff before it happens.


jacobbean30
jacobbean30

now i wait for a "like" right doc..DON'T BE STUPID PEOPLE..that is all

jacobbean30
jacobbean30

sorry i was reading "how to get rid of blackheads" on the little side window..now what about facebook?

theirmind
theirmind

In order to "Like" went to click "Like", but it is false.

PerEdman
PerEdman

So a part of the brain associated with social acceptance becomes activated when someone gets social acceptance. 

Somehow that sounds like either circular logic, or an unclear cause-effect-relationship. Social interaction isn't addictive any more than food is. Yes, you can handle them in an abusive manner, but the fact that social interaction - even on Facebook - gives you positive feedback is in no way proof that it is harmfully addictive. 

inhomenotary
inhomenotary

I dumped my fb about a year ago and haven't been happier.

EmjayGraykat
EmjayGraykat

Facebook = biggest time waster every invented since television.

wafazaidi
wafazaidi

@EmjayGraykat  I agree.  One has to be disciplined not to be distracted by surfing to unrelated topics. But somehow, curiosity generates creativity!

TimothyYork
TimothyYork

Please "like" this comment. The reward center in my brain needs a boost this morining.

Milly
Milly

I know some people think Facebook is this horrible thing, as one of the previous comments says 'narcissism on steroids' but it did not encourage any new behavior. Facebook is only a new form of communication, we have been communicating since day 1 on this planet. Human beings are extremely social creatures by nature and we will almost blindly adopt and enjoy and form of communication. Add to that the fact that most people harbor some deep insecurities about multiple things in their life and it's no surprise how much people respond when someone gives them positive reinforcement. Instead of looking at this as something sad, and an indicator to the dumbing down of a nation, we should look at this as insight into our minds and how we can use it as a positive. This should give people ideas on better ways to teach people, because as we all know, communication is the key to successful learning.