Human Brain Responses to Media

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Human Brain Responses to Media (Part 2)

The act of providing 'likes' to others on social media is related to activation in brain circuity implicated in the reward response. Complete details about the physiological human brain response to social media and email are presented below.

Providing 'Likes'

  • According to a study of 58 adolescents and young adults asked to complete a task in an MRI scanner designed to mimic the social photo-sharing app Instagram, the act of providing 'likes' to others on social media was related to activation in brain circuity implicated in reward, including the striatum and ventral tegmental area.
  • Moreover, on trials in which participants provided a 'like,' the study also observed greater activation in the bilateral insula, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and paracingulate cortex, lateral prefrontal cortices (lPFC), and lateral parietal cortices.

Receiving 'Likes'

  • In the scenario where participants received many 'likes.' robust activation in hubs of the ‘default mode’ or ‘mentalizing network,’ were noted. Researchers felt this could be reliably implicated in social cognition and self-referential thought, including the precuneus and bilateral temporoparietal junction.

Brain Responses Leading to Online Arguments

  • As outlined by Dr. Billi Gordon (PhD) in PsychologyToday, the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain monitors social needs by releasing dopamine when we achieve social success and inspiring neurochemical deficits when we don't. However, as the VTA cannot think and only read signals and reacts, it leads to people wasting hours online arguing about things that they have no control over.

Effect of Online Social Media Exclusion on the Brain

  • In a study developed by applying a Facebook format to study the effects of online social exclusion, researchers observed increased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex and insula after participants experienced exclusion, possibly signaling increased arousal and negative affect.

Effect of Rejection in Social Media on Brain Responses

  • Another neuroimaging study revealed that being rejected based only on one’s profile pictures, resulted in increased activity in the medial frontal cortex, in both adults and children; while in adolescents it showed enhanced pupil dilation, a response to greater cognitive load, and emotional intensity to rejection.

Effect of Peer Feedback in Social Media on Brain Responses

  • When it came to dealing with peer feedback on social media, researchers observed that when receiving peer feedback that did not match one's own initial rating, participants showed enhanced activity in the ACC and insula, two regions involved in detecting norm violations. More specifically, increased ACC activity was associated with more adjustment to fit peer feedback norms in adolescents.

Email

  • According to another UCLA study, the brain’s reward center (i.e., the nucleus accumbens) gets activated when people receive 'likes' on social media.
  • According to a study conducted by Canada Post, direct mail campaigns required 21% less cognitive effort to process than their digital counterparts.
  • Also, activation in parts of the brain that correspond to motivation response was 20% higher for direct mail compared to digital.

Research Strategy:

The research team conducted the primary search using academic literature databases, such as Nature, Science, Academia, Researchgate, Pubmed, Google Scholar, and Semantic Scholar. We then looked at statistics or examples relating to the insights gleaned from academic sources. The team also looked into information available within news portals that exclusively cover psychology and related science news since it is sometimes seen that these sources first report a scientific study and follow up on the same to find out applications or large scale testing surveys done on them. Although some such analyses were found for pertinent studies in sources such as Psychology News, PsyPost, Psychology Today, and Discover, the analyses were opinion-centric, qualitative appraisals and were done by academicians without conducting tests. The team also looked into studies done or funded by large social media platforms themselves (e.g., Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.). Although there was some basic information relating to Facebook acknowledging its users got into dopamine loops, there was no indication on how it was inferred, what studies led to it and what practical examples of it were recorded by Facebook. This was presumably because these platforms were not willing to divulge details relating to how using them could bring in potential physiological changes in its users. So while the team was able to identify 10 insights, there was not enough depth available online to provide the specific analysis requested.
Sources
Sources

Quotes
  • "In this study, we mapped the neural correlates of providing Likes to others on social media. Fifty-eight adolescents and young adults completed a task in the MRI scanner designed to mimic the social photo-sharing app Instagram."
  • "We examined neural responses when participants provided positive feedback to others. The experience of providing Likes to others on social media related to activation in brain circuity implicated in reward, including the striatum and ventral tegmental area, regions also implicated in the experience of receiving Likes from others."
  • "Providing Likes was also associated with activation in brain regions involved in salience processing and executive function."
  • "On trials in which participants provided a like, we also observed greater activation in the bilateral insula, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and paracingulate cortex, lateral prefrontal cortices (lPFC), and lateral parietal cortices. This set of regions, which often co-activate during cognitively demanding tasks, has been dubbed the ‘task activation ensemble’"
  • "Despite frequent coactivation of these brain regions, Seeley and colleagues posited that these regions make up two dissociable networks: the insula and dACC and anterior insula form hubs of a network implicated in interoceptive/autonomic processing (‘salience network’) whereas the lPFC and a more dorsal portion of mPFC are implicated in executive control (‘central executive network’). In the present study, the coactivation of these networks may reflect the orchestration of multiple cognitive processes during decision-making about photographs."
  • "When participants received many Likes, we observed robust activation in hubs of the ‘default mode’ or ‘mentalizing network,’ reliably implicated in social cognition and self-referential thought, including the precuneus and bilateral temporoparietal junction."
Quotes
  • "Society is considerably more complex and diverse than it was 56 million years ago when our ancestors formed groups to increase survival odds, but the need to be social to survive remains the same. "
  • "The Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) of the brain monitors social needs by releasing dopamine when we achieve social success and inspiring neurochemical deficits when we don't. Tragically, social media is not the VTA's friend."
  • "The physiological cues that the VTA uses to determine social status from negative social media experiences are the same as those occurring in our ancestor's brains when the tribe banished them. Of course, not getting enough likes on Facebook is a lot different than being left to face jackals alone. "
  • "But the VTA cannot think; it only read signals and reacts. That's why people waste hours online arguing about things that have no control over."
Quotes
  • "In fact, inspired by Cyberball, a Social Media Ostracism paradigm has recently been developed by applying a Facebook format to study the effects of online social exclusion"
  • "Using functional MRI (fMRI), researchers have observed increased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex and insula after participants experienced exclusion, possibly signaling increased arousal and negative affect. In addition, stronger activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is observed in adolescents and young adults with a history of being socially excluded, maltreated, or insecure attachment, whereas spending more time with friends reduced ACC response in adolescents to social exclusion.This may possibly protect adolescents against the negative influence of ostracism or cyberbullying, although all these studies are correlational."
  • "Neuroimaging studies revealed that, being rejected based only on one’s profile pictures resulted in increased activity in the medial frontal cortex, in both adults and children, and studies in adolescents showed enhanced pupil dilation, a response to greater cognitive load and emotional intensity, to rejection."
  • "Neuroimaging studies in adolescents showed that peer feedback indeed influences adolescents’ behavior. Neural correlates may provide more insight in the specific parts of the feedback that drives these behavioral sensitivities. One way this is demonstrated is by having individuals rate certain products such as music preference or facial attractiveness. After their initial rating, participants received feedback from others, which was either congruent or incongruent with their initial rating. Afterwards, individuals made their ratings again, and the researchers analyzed whether behavior changed in the direction of the peer feedback. Indeed, both adults and adolescents adjusted their behavior towards the group norm, demonstrating general sensitivity to peer influence. "
  • "Furthermore, when receiving peer feedback that did not match their own initial rating, participants showed enhanced activity in the ACC and insula, two regions involved in detecting norm violations. More specifically, increased ACC activity was associated with more adjustment to fit peer feedback norms in adolescents"
Quotes
  • "Growing up we have all heard the negative side effects of social media, but do we really understand how these small apps on our phones impact our brains? According to a UCLA study, the brain’s reward center, the nucleus accumbens, lights up when people receive “likes” on social media. People strive for this acceptance, and this addiction of social media is now more prevalent than the addiction to cigarettes and alcohol."
Quotes
  • "Canada Post found similarly intriguing results in its neuromarketing research project. They measured the response to campaigns that used the same creative and messaging for both physical and digital media."
  • "Direct mail campaigns required 21% less cognitive effort."
  • "Participants’ recall was 70% higher if they were exposed to direct mail rather than a digital ad."
  • "Activation in parts of the brain that correspond to motivation response was 20% higher for direct mail."
  • "As human beings, we are wired to respond more strongly to physical, printed messages. For marketers who want advertising with long-lasting impact and easy recollection, printed materials can clearly make a difference."