Thanks for proving that everyone is terrible yet again, science!
Photo: iStockphoto.com | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
According to a recent article in Scientific American, people spend 60 percent of all face-to-face convos talking about themselves (“Yeah, cool story about how your mother died. But listen to what happened to me at the Dick’s Sporting goods the other day!”). When we take to social media, the number jumps to a disconcerting 80 percent (“#swag”). Are people just selfish jerks with little or no desire to engage with their fellow human beings? Does a person’s singular focus on his/her own problems create a world community devoid of empathy and incapable of true progress? Maybe! But it’s not our fault – it’s our stupid brain chemistry.
According to researchers at Haaaaarvard, talking about yourself activates the reward centers in your noggin. Subjects stuffed into an MRI were asked to talk about themselves and others. When guinea pigs chatted about their own issues, the dopamine centers of the brain (the same place that gets going for boning, drugs, and other awesome stuff) lit up, meaning the brain rewards you for talking about your stupid self.
What’s even more super amazing about this study? Because the subjects were stuck in an MRI tube, there wasn’t anyone necessarily listening to them. With no face-to-face contact, participants couldn’t be sure if their self-indulgent whining was disappearing into the air or being carefully considered by eggheads. But it didn’t matter – the resulting effects on the brain are the same whether someone is actually listening to you speak about yourself or not, which explains everything from therapy ("Oh, hey, I’m just going to sit behind you and listen to you talk and maybe I’ll go to sleep or play Angry Birds") to your extremely self-satisfied friend who won’t shut up about his “awesome new job managing Arby’s” (shut the hell up already, Steve).