Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 29 August 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00439

Nucleus accumbens response to gains in reputation for the self relative to gains for others predicts social media use

Dar Meshi1,2,3,4*, Carmen Morawetz1,2,3 and Hauke R. Heekeren1,2,3,4
  • 1Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotion,” Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 2Department of Education and Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 3Dahlem Institute for the Neuroimaging of Emotion, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 4Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Our reputation is important to us; we've experienced natural selection to care about our reputation. Recently, the neural processing of gains in reputation (positive social feedback concerning one's character) has been shown to occur in the human ventral striatum. It is still unclear, however, how individual differences in the processing of gains in reputation may lead to individual differences in real-world behavior. For example, in the real-world, one way that people currently maintain their reputation is by using social media websites, like Facebook. Furthermore, Facebook use consists of a social comparison component, where users observe others' behavior and can compare it to their own. Therefore, we hypothesized a relationship between the way the brain processes specifically self-relevant gains in reputation and one's degree of Facebook use. We recorded functional neuroimaging data while participants received gains in reputation, observed the gains in reputation of another person, or received monetary reward. We demonstrate that across participants, when responding to gains in reputation for the self, relative to observing gains for others, reward-related activity in the left nucleus accumbens predicts Facebook use. However, nucleus accumbens activity in response to monetary reward did not predict Facebook use. Finally, a control step-wise regression analysis showed that Facebook use primarily explains our results in the nucleus accumbens. Overall, our results demonstrate how individual sensitivity of the nucleus accumbens to the receipt of self-relevant social information leads to differences in real-world behavior.

Keywords: reputation, impression management, social reward, social media, Facebook, nucleus accumbens, individual differences, fMRI

Citation: Meshi D, Morawetz C and Heekeren HR (2013) Nucleus accumbens response to gains in reputation for the self relative to gains for others predicts social media use. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:439. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00439

Received: 28 May 2013; Accepted: 17 July 2013;
Published online: 29 August 2013.

Edited by:

Leonhard Schilbach, University Hospital Cologne, Germany

Reviewed by:

Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn, Aarhus University, Denmark
Keise Izuma, California Institute of Technology, USA

Copyright © 2013 Meshi, Morawetz and Heekeren. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Dar Meshi, Department of Education and Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin, Germany e-mail: dar.meshi@fu-berlin.de

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