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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015 Jun;10(6):801-8. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsu121. Epub 2014 Oct 8.

Beautiful friendship: Social sharing of emotions improves subjective feelings and activates the neural reward circuitry.

Author information

1
Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Division of Mind and Brain Research, 10117 Berlin, Germany, University of Münster, Department of Psychology, 48049 Münster, Germany, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Cardiff University, School of Psychology, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK, and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Division of Mind and Brain Research, 10117 Berlin, Germany, University of Münster, Department of Psychology, 48049 Münster, Germany, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Cardiff University, School of Psychology, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK, and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland ullrich.wagner@web.de.
2
Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Division of Mind and Brain Research, 10117 Berlin, Germany, University of Münster, Department of Psychology, 48049 Münster, Germany, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Cardiff University, School of Psychology, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK, and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland.
3
Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Division of Mind and Brain Research, 10117 Berlin, Germany, University of Münster, Department of Psychology, 48049 Münster, Germany, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Cardiff University, School of Psychology, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK, and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Division of Mind and Brain Research, 10117 Berlin, Germany, University of Münster, Department of Psychology, 48049 Münster, Germany, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Cardiff University, School of Psychology, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK, and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland.

Abstract

Humans have a strong tendency to affiliate with other people, especially in emotional situations. Here, we suggest that a critical mechanism underlying this tendency is that socially sharing emotional experiences is in itself perceived as hedonically positive and thereby contributes to the regulation of individual emotions. We investigated the effect of social sharing of emotions on subjective feelings and neural activity by having pairs of friends view emotional (negative and positive) and neutral pictures either alone or with the friend. While the two friends remained physically separated throughout the experiment-with one undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging and the other performing the task in an adjacent room-they were made aware on a trial-by-trial basis whether they were seeing pictures simultaneously with their friend (shared) or alone (unshared). Ratings of subjective feelings were improved significantly when participants viewed emotional pictures together than alone, an effect that was accompanied by activity increase in ventral striatum and medial orbitofrontal cortex, two important components of the reward circuitry. Because these effects occurred without any communication or interaction between the friends, they point to an important proximate explanation for the basic human motivation to affiliate with others, particularly in emotional situations.

KEYWORDS:

affiliation; emotion regulation; fMRI; reward; social sharing

PMID:
25298009
PMCID:
PMC4448023
DOI:
10.1093/scan/nsu121
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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