A common pain medication might make you go from “so cute!” to “so what?” when you look at a photo of a kitten. And it might make you less sensitive to horrifying things, too. It’s acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Researchers say the drug might be taking the edge off emotions — not just pain.
On average, the people who’d taken the acetaminophen said they felt nearly 20 percent less happy when they saw the delightful photos and nearly 10 percent less sad when they saw the dreadful photos compared to those who’d taken the placebo. The same was true for their ratings for the power of each image. The results were reported this month in Psychological Science,
“It’s a surprising finding,” says Nathan DeWall, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky who was not involved in the study. Typically, he says, we think of acetaminophen as numbing painful experiences. Instead, DeWall says this study suggests that the drug may have a broader impact by muffling all emotions.
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