Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Social Media "Likes" as Yummy as Chocolate

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Social Media "Likes" as Yummy as Chocolate

Article excerpt

The same brain circuits activated by eating chocolate and winning money are activated when teenagers see large numbers of "likes" on their photos in a social network, according to a study that scanned teens' brains while using social media.

The 32 teenagers, ages 13--18, were told they were participating in a small social network similar to the popular photo-sharing app, Instagram. Researchers showed them 148 photographs on a computer screen for 12 minutes, including 40 photos that each teenager submitted, and analyzed their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Each photo also displayed the number of likes it had supposedly received from other teenage participants (the number was actually assigned by the researchers).

"When the teens saw their own photos with a large number of likes, we saw activity across a wide variety of regions in the brain," said lead author Lauren Sherman.

A region especially active was the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain's reward circuitry, she said. This reward circuitry is thought to be particularly sensitive during adolescence. In deciding whether to "like" a photo, the teenagers were highly influenced by the number of likes the photo already had. …

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