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Effects of acetaminophen on risk taking



Acetaminophen, an analgesic and antipyretic available over-the-counter and used in over 600 medicines, is one of the most consumed drugs in the USA. Recent research has suggested that acetaminophen's effects extend to the blunting of negative as well as positive affect. Because affect is a determinant of risk perception and risk taking, we tested the hypothesis that acute acetaminophen consumption (1000 mg) could influence these important judgments and decisions. In three double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, healthy young adults completed a laboratory measure of risk taking (Balloon Analog Risk Task) and in Studies 1 and 2 completed self-report measures of risk perception. Across all studies (total n = 545), acetaminophen increased risk-taking behavior. On the more affectively stimulating risk perception measure used in Study 2, acetaminophen reduced self-reported perceived risk and this reduction statistically mediated increased risk-taking behavior. These results indicate that acetaminophen can increase risk taking, which may be due to reductions in risk perceptions, particularly those that are highly affect laden.
Effects of acetaminophen on risk taking
Alexis Keaveney1, Ellen Peters2and Baldwin Way1
1Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA and 2School of Journalism
and Communication, University of Oregon Eugene, OR 97403, USA
Correspondence should be addressed to Baldwin M. Way, Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, 1835 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210,
USA. E-mail:
Acetaminophen, an analgesic and antipyretic available over-the-counter and used in over 600 medicines, is one of the most
consumed drugs in the USA. Recent research has suggested that acetaminophen’s effects extend to the blunting of negative as
well as positive affect. Because affect is a determinant of risk perception and risk taking, we tested the hypothesis that acute
acetaminophen consumption (1000 mg) could inuence these important judgments and decisions. In three double-blind,
placebo-controlled studies, healthy young adults completed a laboratory measure of risk taking (Balloon Analog Risk Task)
and in Studies 1 and 2 completed self-report measures of risk perception. Across all studies (total n=545), acetaminophen
increased risk-taking behavior. On the more affectively stimulating risk perception measure used in Study 2, acetaminophen
reduced self-reported perceived risk and this reduction statistically mediated increased risk-taking behavior. These results
indicate that acetaminophen can increase risk taking, which may be due to reductions in risk perceptions, particularly those
that are highly affect laden.
Key words: NSAID; decision-making; risk perception; anti-inammatory
Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol®and nearly 600
other medicines, is taken each week by an estimated 23% of
the US adult population (Kaufman et al., 2002). Recent research
has demonstrated that acetaminophen’s effects on pain and
fever reduction extend to psychological processes. For example,
acetaminophen reduces hurt feelings (Dewall et al., 2010), mean-
ing threats (Randles et al., 2013), distress over another’s suffering
(Mischkowski et al., 2016), loss aversion (DeWall et al., 2014) and
affective reactivity to negatively valenced images (Durso et al.,
2015). In this latter study, acetaminophen also blunted affec-
tive reactivity to positively valenced images, suggesting that
it may reduce affective reactivity more generally, rather than
solely inuencing negative experiences. Because risk judgments
and decisions rely on both positive and negative affect
(Loewenstein et al., 2001;Slovic et al., 2004), it is rea-
sonable to hypothesize that acetaminophen may inuence
Affect and decision-making
Work on the ‘affect-heuristic’ and ‘risk-as-feelings’ hypothe-
sis have demonstrated a key role for affect in risk judgments
and decisions (Loewenstein et al., 2001;Slovic et al., 2004). In
particular, when faced with a complex decision, people often
use their feelings about an option as information, substituting
it for the more difcult probabilities and outcomes that accu-
rately describe risks. This affect then serves as a simple cue,
allowing people to avoid hazards quickly and efciently. As a
result, affect manipulations, perhaps including acetaminophen,
should inuence decisions about risks.
Received: 19 October 2019; Revised: 28 May 2020; Accepted: 24 June 2020
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (
licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
For commercial re-use, please contact
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2020, 725–732
doi: 10.1093/scan/nsaa108
Advance Access Publication Date:
Original Manuscript
30 July 2020
Affect heuristic and risk taking
The affect heuristic predicts that individuals will use affect as
information to guide decisions, especially in risky tasks that are
affectively stimulating and experientially engaging (Figner and
Weber, 2011). The Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART; (Lejuez et al.,
2002)), for example, is such an experiential task; performance on
it predicts drug and alcohol use, delinquent behavior and risky
sexual behavior (e.g. (Lejuez et al., 2004 2007;Aklin et al., 2005)).
The BART is a computerized task in which participants inate
balloons to earn money, but each pump risks them losing all of
their prior earnings. The task is probabilistic although it does not
provide explicit information about the probability of loss events.
It is also visual and experiential, making it a strong candidate for
a task in which participants are likely to use the affect heuristic.
Indeed, experimentally induced increases to participant’s
negative affect have reduced risk taking on the BART (Yuen
and Lee, 2003;Heilman et al., 2010;Parkinson et al., 2012).
This research suggests that negative affect experienced during
the BART signals one to engage in less risk taking. Because
the BART negative loss events are more visually and audito-
rily salient than its win events and because manipulations of
negative affect had signicant inuences on task performance,
it seems likely that negative affect toward potential or expe-
rienced losses exerts a stronger inuence on BART decisions
than does positive affect toward potential or experienced gains.
Therefore, acetaminophen’s blunting of negative affect may lead
to a reduction in this negative affect signal and an increase
in risk taking. These considerations led to our rst hypoth-
esis: Acetaminophen will increase risk taking on the BART
(Hypothesis 1).
Affect heuristic and risk and benet
Affect-heuristic use also has also been explored in the context
of risk and benet judgments (Slovic and Peters, 2006). Individu-
als appear to rely on affect to infer the risks and benets offered
by activities and hazards. Objects that elicit positive affect, say
alcoholic beverages, tend to be judged as having high benets
and low risks. Conversely, objects that elicit negative affect, say
nuclear power, tend to be judged as low in benet and high
in risk. Because acetaminophen appears to reduce the extrem-
ity of affective reactions to stimuli, it may reduce perceived
risk and perceived benet of a behavior or policy. Therefore,
our second hypothesis is: acetaminophen will reduce the neg-
ative affect elicited when considering potential risk, leading to
reduced risk perception (Hypothesis 2A). The corollary of this
hypothesis is that acetaminophen will reduce the positive affect
elicited when considering potential benets, leading to reduced
benet perception (Hypothesis 2B).
To test these hypotheses, we used an acute, double-blind,
placebo-controlled, parallel-arm design with acute adminis-
tration of the standard extra-strength dosage (1000 mg) of
Study 1
Participants. Participants were 142 undergraduate volunteers
(76 men, 64 women, 2 nonresponses) with a mean age of 19.36
years (s.d. =1.68). Sample size was determined a priori based
on the expectation of a similar effect size as that found in pre-
vious acetaminophen and affect research (Durso et al., 2015)
and acetaminophen and decision-making research (DeWall et
al., 2014). All research reported herein was approved by the Ohio
State University Institutional Review Board.
Acetaminophen. A double-blind, placebo-controlled design was
used. Participants were randomly assigned to drug condi-
tion using a random number generator (n=69 placebo, n=73
acetaminophen). Participants were given a placebo or 1000 mg
of acetaminophen, the recommended extra strength dosage
for a headache and the dosage commonly used in studies
of acetaminophen’s psychological effects (Durso et al., 2015).
Acetaminophen and placebo solutions were prepared by Phar-
macy Specialists Compounding Pharmacy (Altamonte Springs,
Florida; The drug solution consisted
of acetaminophen (100 mg/ml) suspended in Ora-Plus suspen-
sion liquid and avored with Fagron Simple Syrup. The placebo
solution consisted of Avicel Microcrystalline powder (100 mg/ml)
dissolved in Ora-Plus suspension liquid and avored with Ora-
Sweet Syrup. After consuming the assigned solution, partici-
pants were given a small cup of water to wash it down. At the
conclusion of the experiment, participants were asked to guess
which drug condition they were in (acetaminophen, placebo, or
‘no idea’); thus, participants could opt out of guessing their con-
dition, or guess between drug and placebo conditions, a 50%
chance of guessing correctly. In the acetaminophen condition,
46.6% of participants correctly guessed which condition they
were in (i.e. choosing ‘acetaminophen’ and not ‘placebo’ or ‘no
idea’). A one-sample t-test for proportions reveals that this was
not signicantly different from chance, t=0.58, P=0.56. In
the placebo condition, 34.8% of participants correctly guessed
which condition they were in (i.e. selecting ‘placebo’ and not
‘acetaminophen’ or ‘no idea’), a proportion that was signicantly
worse than chance, t=2.64, P=0.01, suggesting that partic-
ipants did not accurately predict their experimental condition
(the most common response in this group was ‘no idea’, 41%).
Risk taking. To measure risk taking, the BART was used (Lejuez
et al., 2002). In this task, participants complete 30 trials, each of
which includes 1–128 participant responses. A trial begins with
a small, uninated balloon on a computer screen. Participants
can inate the balloon, with each pump earning $0.05. Though
they played this game for imaginary money, they were told their
goal was to earn as much money as possible in the task. Partic-
ipants can collect their total trial earnings and move them to a
permanent bank at any point by pressing a button saying ‘Col-
lect $$$’. However, participants also are told that the balloon can
burst as early as the rst trial and as late as when the balloon lls
the entire computer screen. Bursts are accompanied by a burst-
ing sound and popping animation. If the balloon bursts prior to
the participants pressing the ‘Collect $$$’ button, they lose any
money earned thus far on that trial, and must move on to the
next trial having added no money to their permanent bank.
Participants are not told about the maximum number of
pumps, the likelihood of bursts, nor that, for each balloon,
the rst pump has a 1/128 probability of bursting, the second
pump 1/127, and so on until on the 128th pump there is a 1/1
probability of bursting.
Risk and benet perception. To assess acetaminophen’s impact
on use of the affect heuristic in risk judgments, participants
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2020, Vol. 15, No. 7726
completed the risk and benet perceptions questionnaire used
by Finucane et al. (2000). Participants were asked to make risk
and benet judgments of various activities and technologies for
US society as a whole. They made these judgments on a 7-point
scale ranging from not at all risky (benecial) to very risky (ben-
ecial). To enhance affect-heuristic use, participants were put
under time pressure with a countdown clock on the screen while
making judgments, with 5.2 s for each item (as in Finucane et al.,
2000). The scale consisted of 23 items (e.g. ‘Pesticides’, ‘Nuclear
Power Plants’), presented one at a time on the screen. Items
were presented in randomized order. After completing ratings
of all 23 items on the rst scale (either risk or benet), partici-
pants then received instructions for completing the second scale
(benet or risk), with all items presented again in a different ran-
dom order. Order of the benet and risk perception tasks was
Procedure. After signing up for the experiment, participants
received an email informing them that ‘Half of the participants
will receive a liquid dose of acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) and
half of the participants will receive a liquid dose of placebo
(i.e. a sugar pill or inactive liquid). Therefore, there is a 50%
chance you will be in the group that receives acetaminophen’.
The email informed them about the risk factors associated
with acetaminophen (e.g. currently taking a drug containing
acetaminophen, a history of liver disorder, an allergic reac-
tion to acetaminophen, currently taking an anticoagulant, or
a history of alcohol abuse) and asked them to refrain from
participation if they met any of these risk factors. To facil-
itate drug absorption, we also asked participants to refrain
from consuming food for three hours before the experiment.
Upon arrival at the laboratory and after providing informed con-
sent (which repeated the information in the email described
above), participants consumed either the drug or placebo, based
on random assignment. To allow for sufcient drug uptake
into the brain (Singla et al., 2012), we waited 45 min to begin
the main tasks of the study. During drug uptake, participants
completed a number of background personality and health
measures. At 45 min, participants began completing decision-
making tasks. At approximately 50 min after the drug con-
sumption, participants completed the risk and benet percep-
tion task using the online survey program Qualtrics (Qualtrics,
Provo, UT). Immediately following and approximately 60 min
after the drug consumption, participants completed the BART
task, implemented using the Psychology Experiment Building
Language (PEBL) package and prepackaged BART script (Mueller
and Piper, 2014; Following the
BART, participants answered a short survey, which included
demographic information, then were debriefed and thanked.
Risk-taking main effect. To analyze the BART data, we com-
puted participants’ adjusted average number of pumps across
the 30 trials, according to methods in prior work (Lejuez
et al., 2002). Specically, trials on which a balloon burst occurred
were excluded, as the number of pumps completed on this trial
reected balloon bursts rather than the participant’s desired
amount of risk taking had a burst not occurred. After those tri-
als were excluded, averages across the remaining trials were
Consistent with our rst hypothesis that acetaminophen
would increase BART risk taking, a t-test revealed a signi-
cant difference in risk taking between those on acetaminophen
and those on placebo, t(140) =2.29, P=0.023, 95% CI
[10.94, 0.81], Cohen’s d=0.38 (Figure 1A, left panel). As
hypothesized, those in the placebo condition engaged in signif-
icantly less risk taking as indexed by adjusted average number
of pumps (M=33.10, s.d. =15.75) than those on acetaminophen
(M=38.98, s.d. =14.80). Hierarchical linear modeling techniques
demonstrated similar results, but did not identify further psy-
chological mechanisms driving these effects (see supplementary
material). There was also a signicant difference (t(140) =2.02,
Fig. 1. Graphs of the adjusted average number of pumps for each study (error bars denote standard error of the mean). In Studies 1, 2 and the combined analysis of
all three studies, the acetaminophen group had signicantly more adjusted average pumps.
A. Keaveney et al.
P=0.045, 95% CI [2.95, 0.033]) in the number of balloons that
burst as a function of drug condition with more balloons burst-
ing in the acetaminophen condition (M=10.07, s.d. =4.13) than
the placebo condition (M=8.58, s.d. =4.64).
Risk and benet perception. To assess risk perception, average
ratings were computed across the 23 items. The same pro-
cess was used for benet perception. Our second hypothesis
that acetaminophen would decrease risk and benet percep-
tions was not supported. A t-test for average risk perception
revealed no signicant difference between drug conditions,
t(140) =1.48, P=0.14, 95% CI [0.05, 0.34]. Descriptively,those on
placebo perceived more risk (M=3.93, s.d. =0.62) than those on
acetaminophen (M=3.78, s.d. =0.56). A t-test for average ben-
et perception also revealed no signicant difference between
drug conditions, t(140) =0.74, P=0.46, 95% CI [0.13, 0.28].
Descriptively, those on placebo perceived more benet (M=4.58,
s.d. =0.61) than those on acetaminophen (M=4.50, s.d. =0.62).
We also examined acetaminophen’s impact on the correla-
tion between risk and benet judgments; these analyses are
described in the supplementary online material.
Study 1 discussion
Study 1 provided initial support for our rst hypothesis; those
on acetaminophen, relative to placebo, engaged in signicantly
more risk taking on the BART. Little evidence emerged, how-
ever, for our second hypothesis that acetaminophen would
reduce risk and benet perceptions. We speculated that our
participants perceived these items to be less affectively stim-
ulating than those in the original Finucane et al. (2000) affect-
heuristic study. Indeed, in our placebo group, negative cor-
relations between risk and benet perceptions were obtained
(r=0.23), but were much weaker than those in the same time-
pressure condition of the original study (r=0.80). If partici-
pants had weaker negative affect to these risks in our study,
acetaminophen may not have exerted much effect on judgments
because acetaminophen has weaker effects on stimuli that are
less affective compared to more affective (Durso et al., 2015).
Study 2
In Study 2, we attempted a direct replication with the BART
task and used a risk-perception scale with items that may be
more affectively stimulating than those of Study 1 to re-test our
second hypothesis.
Participants. One-hundred eighty-nine undergraduates volun-
teered (109 men, 79 women, 1 nonresponse) and had a mean age
of 19.49 years (s.d. =2.89). We aimed for 200 participants based
on a power analysis of Study 1 (Cohen’s d=0.38); data collection
ended at the end of the semester.
Acetaminophen. As in Study 1, we used a double-blind, placebo-
controlled design with random assignment to 1000 mg of
acetaminophen or placebo (n=95 and 94, respectively). Partic-
ipants were asked to guess which drug condition they were in
(acetaminophen or placebo). A total of 54.7% of participants in
the acetaminophen condition correctly guessed which condition
they were in, a proportion that was not signicantly different
from chance, t=0.92, P=0.36. A total of 52.1% of participants
in the placebo condition correctly guessed which condition they
were in, a proportion that was not signicantly different than
chance, t=0.41, P=0.68.
BART. The same behavioral measure of risk taking, the BART,
was used in Study 2. Participants completed 30 trials. Follow-
ing this, participants answered self-report questions about their
experience and perception of balloon bursts during the task (see
supplementary material for full materials and analysis).
Risk and benet perceptions. To examine acetaminophen’s
effect on risk and benet perceptions, we used the revised
Domain Specic Risk-Taking Scale (DOSPERT; Blais and Weber,
2006). This 30-item scale provides behavioral scenarios (e.g. ‘Bet-
ting a day’s income on the outcome of a sporting event’) for
which participants were then asked for their gut-level percep-
tion of the riskiness of each behavior as well as the expected
benets that would be obtained from enacting each behavior.
Participants responded on a 7-point scale ranging from not at all
risky (no benets at all) to extremely risky (great benets). Because
these items are more experientially descriptive and participants
are asked to judge risk and benet personally rather than for
society, we thought they would be more affectively stimulating
than Study 1’s items. We found support for this hypothesis in
an additional study described in the supplemental materials. In
brief, the DOSPERT items were rated as signicantly more emo-
tional and negative than the Finucane items. Participants also
reported feeling more worried when thinking about those items
than the Finucane items.
The DOSPERT scale can be analyzed both for general risk and
benet perceptions as well as domain-specic perceptions in
ethical (‘passing off somebody else’s work as your own’), nan-
cial (‘betting a day’s income at a high-stake poker game’), health
(‘driving a car without a seatbelt’), recreational (‘Bungee jump-
ing off a tall bridge B’) and social (‘moving to a city far away from
your extended family’) domains. We analyzed the data for aver-
age risk/benet overall and separately within each of the ve
Procedure. Study 2’s procedure was nearly identical to Study 1
and used the same software. Participants gave informed con-
sent, consumed drug or placebo, and waited 45 min while com-
pleting background measures. Approximately 50 min after drug
administration, participants completed the DOSPERT. Following
this and approximately 60 min after drug administration, par-
ticipants completed the BART, followed by the self-report items
concerning recalled affective experience during the BART task
(see supplemental material).
Risk-taking main effect. As in Study 1, we computed partici-
pants’ adjusted average number of pumps across the 30 trials.
A t-test revealed a signicant difference in risk taking between
those on placebo and those on acetaminophen, t(187) =2.14,
P=0.033, 95% CI [8.11, 0.34], Cohen’s d=0.31. Those on
acetaminophen (M=36.38, s.d. =14.79) engaged in signicantly
more risk taking than those on placebo (M=32.15, s.d. =12.14)
(Figure 1, middle panel), thus replicating Study 1’s effect. As
in Study 1, more balloons burst in the acetaminophen condi-
tion (M=9.54, s.d. =4.29) than the placebo condition (M=8.73,
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2020, Vol. 15, No. 7728
s.d. =4.43). However, the difference was not statistically signi-
cant (t(187) =1.27, P=0.21, 95% CI [2.06, 0.45]).
Risk and benet perception. To test the second hypothesis
that acetaminophen would decrease risk and benet percep-
tions, we used t-tests to compare placebo and acetaminophen
groups’ summed risk and summed benet perception across
all 30 DOSPERT items, as is typically done when analyzing
the DOSPERT scale. A t-test revealed a signicant difference
in risk perception between conditions, t(187) =2.72, P=0.007,
95% CI [1.93, 12.19], Cohen’s d=0.40. Those on acetaminophen
(M=133.89, s.d. =18.03) perceived signicantly less risk than
those on placebo (M=140.96, s.d. =17.71). Thus, Hypothesis 2A
was supported for risk perceptions. When analyzed separately
by domain, this effect held for risk perception in the social
(P=0.005) and recreational (P=0.025) domains was marginally
signicant in the nancial (P=0.069) domain and was nonsignif-
icant but in the hypothesized direction in the health (P=0.12)
and ethical (P=0.67) domains.
For benet perception (Hypothesis 2B), a t-test revealed no
signicant difference in summed benet perception between
conditions, t(187) =0.10, P=0.92, 95% CI [4.85, 5.35]; this null
effect existed for each of the ve domains when analyzed sepa-
rately. Thus, Hypothesis 2B was not supported.
Risk-taking mediation. The nding that acetaminophen signif-
icantly reduced perceived risk (measured with the DOSPERT)
could account for the drug’s effect on BART risk taking. We
explored whether acetaminophen’s effect on risk taking was
mediated by the drug’s effect on DOSPERT risk perception by
using PROCESS Model 4 (Hayes, 2012). This analysis revealed
a signicant indirect effect of acetaminophen on risk taking
through risk perception (point estimate: 0.88, 95% bootstrap
CI =0.14 to 2.31); acetaminophen no longer had a direct effect
on risk taking (direct effect =3.34, P=0.09, 95% CI =0.58 to
7.26). No evidence existed of an indirect effect through bene-
t perception (point estimate: 0.03, 95% bootstrap CI =0.88
to 0.66).
Study 2 discussion
Study 2 replicated and extended Study 1’s risk-taking result:
Again, acetaminophen increased risk taking, supporting our rst
hypothesis. Furthermore, there was also support for hypothe-
sis 2A: acetaminophen reduced risk perceptions (but not benet
perceptions) on the DOSPERT. These effects of acetaminophen
on risk perceptions in Study 2, but not Study 1, are likely due
to the greater negative emotion elicited by the DOSPERT items
than Finucane et al. (2000) items (see supplementary material
for the aforementioned additional study demonstrating greater
emotionality of the DOSPERT items).
In addition, the acetaminophen-caused reduction in risk per-
ceptions mediated increased risk taking on the BART,suggesting
that acetaminophen may reduce negative affect to options and
thereby how risky they seem.
Study 3
The goal of Study 3 was to replicate and extend Study 2.
Participants. Two-hundred fteen undergraduates volunteered
(91 men, 122 women, 1 selected ‘prefer not to answer’) and had
a mean age of 19.49 years (s.d. =2.89). Like in Study 2, we aimed
for 200 participants; data collection ended at the end of the
semester. The sample was 69% white, 10% Asian, 8% Black or
African American, and 14% Mixed race or some other origin.
Drug preparation. As in the prior studies, we used a double-
blind, placebo-controlled design with random assignment to
1000 mg of acetaminophen or placebo (n=109 and 106, respec-
tively). It should be noted that a different preparation procedure
and vehicle were used for acetaminophen administration than
in the prior studies. Drug suspension was prepared in the labora-
tory by adding 40g of acetaminophen powder with 0.6 g Vivasol®
GF to 400 ml of Flavor Blendsuspending vehicle from which 10
ml (1000 mg) aliquots were administered to participants. Placebo
solutions were prepared in the same manner by adding 40 g
of Avicel® PH-105 microcrystalline cellulose powder with 0.6
g Vivasol®GF to 400 ml of Flavor Blendsuspending vehicle.
All products were prepared and provided by Pharmacy Spe-
cialists Compounding Pharmacy (Altamonte Springs, Florida;
Procedure. The procedure was similar to prior studies. After
consenting and consuming drug or placebo, participants com-
pleted background questionnaires. At least 45 min later, partic-
ipants completed two tasks (Columbia Card Task (Figner et al.,
2009) and the Iowa Gambling task (Bechara et al., 1994); these
data have not been analyzed and will be reported separately)
followed by the BART. A different software platform (Inquisit, was used to implement the BART. An
additional change in procedure was that after the rst 15 bal-
loons, participants completed the same self-report items as in
Study 2, which were repeated after the nal 15 balloons. Partic-
ipants did not complete any self-reported risk perception items
in this study.
Results and discussion
Unlike the prior studies, participants in the acetaminophen con-
dition were better at guessing their condition; 61.2% correctly
guessed their condition, a proportion signicantly better than
chance, t=2.45, P=0.02.
As measured by the average number of pumps on nonburst-
ing trials, we did not nd a signicant difference in risk taking
on the BART between the acetaminophen (M=24.13, s.d. =12.56)
and placebo condition (M=24.49, s.d.=13.30), t(213) =0.20,
P=0.84, 95% CI [3.11, 3.83] in this study (Figure 1, right panel).
Although we thought it plausible that guessed drug condition
might have predicted performance, according to an ANOVA, no
main effect existed of guessed drug condition (F(l,210) =1.59,
P=0.21) nor was there an interaction effect of guessed drug con-
dition (F(1,210) =0.32, P=0.57) with actual drug condition (one
subject did not guess condition). There was a greater number
of balloon bursts in the acetaminophen (M=6.56, s.d. =3.60)
than the placebo condition (M=6.17, s.d.=3.47); however,
the difference was not signicant (t(213) =.81, P=0.42, 95%
CI [1.34, 0.56]).
It should be noted that the average number of pumps in this
study (across both conditions), which used the Inquisit software
(M=24.31, s.d. =12.90) was signicantly less (F(2,543) =39.88,
A. Keaveney et al.
P< 0.0001) than that from the prior two studies that used the
PEBL software (Study 1, M=36.12 s.d. =15.50; Study 2 M=34.28,
s.d. =13.66). Similarly, the number of bursts in this study
(M=6.37, s.d. =3.53) was signicantly lower (F(2,543) =2185.73,
P< 0.001) than those in the prior two studies (Study 1: M=9.35,
s.d. =4.34; Study 2: M=9.14, s.d. =4.37). Consistent with
these differences, signicant differences existed in earnings
(F(2,545) =31.5, P< 0.001), with lower earnings in Study 3 (Study
1: M=$34.27, s.d. =10.14 Study 2: M=$34.02, s.d. =10.37; Study
3: M=$26.53, s.d. =11.95).
Combined analysis of studies 1, 2 and 3
As compilation of results across studies can lead to improved
interpretation of effects (Braver et al., 2014;Fabrigar and
Wegener, 2016), we combined data from all three studies.
In this compilation, there was a signicant main effect of
acetaminophen on BART risk taking (t(544) =2.26, P=0.024,
95% CI [5.35, 0.38], Cohen’s d=0.19) with a greater
average number of pumps on nonbursting balloons in the
acetaminophen condition (M=32.24, s.d. =15.40) than the
placebo condition (M=29.37, s.d. =14.11). Consistent with
the acetaminophen group engaging in greater risk taking,
there was a greater number of balloon bursts (t(544) =2.237,
P=0.026, 95% CI [1.543, 0.100]) in the acetaminophen condi-
tion (M=8.51, s.d. =4.28) than the placebo condition (M=7.68,
s.d. =4.30). This provides strong evidence that acetaminophen
increases risk-taking on the BART.
General discussion
Across three separate studies, acetaminophen increased risk
taking on the BART. In Study 2, acetaminophen also reduced
perceived risk on the DOSPERT, and this experimentally induced
reduction in perceived risk accounted for increased risk taking
on the BART, suggesting acetaminophen may reduce negative
affect and risk perception in turn and, thereby, increase risk
Acetaminophen did not reduce risk perceptions using the
Finucane items (Study 1) in contrast to the effects seen with
the DOSPERT risk perception items (Study 2). Motivated by
prior work showing that acetaminophen has greater effects on
affective stimuli rated to be more extreme in negative or posi-
tive valence than less extreme stimuli (Durso et al., 2015), our
additional online study (see supplementary material) provided
evidence that Study 2’s items were more affectively stimulat-
ing (e.g. they were rated more emotional and negative) than
Study 1’s items These ndings provide initial evidence that
acetaminophen can inuence risk judgments, especially for
more affectively stimulating stimuli.
Interestingly, although acetaminophen signicantly reduced
perceived risk in Study 2, it did not reduce perceived benet. One
potential explanation for the lack of effect on benet items is
that their phrasing may have elicited more cognitive evaluation,
whereas the risk questions may have been moreaffectively stim-
ulating. The risk questionnaire asked participants to rate ‘your
gut level assessment of how risky each situation or behavior is’
whereas the benet scale asks for ‘the benets you would obtain
from each situation’. An emphasis on gut level risk assessment
may increase reliance on the affect heuristic. This difference
may account for Study 2’s acetaminophen-caused reduced risk
perceptions and its lack of effect on perceived benets.
Although not all studies were independently signicant,
when treated in aggregate, a signicant relation emerged
between taking acetaminophen and choosing more risk. Mul-
tiple studies with effects in the same direction, even if not
signicant, reduce the probability that the population effect is
zero (Braver et al., 2014;Fabrigar and Wegener, 2016), suggest-
ing that this is a reliable effect. Potential factors contributing
to the lack of an effect in Study 3 could be the different drug
formulation that led to greater awareness of drug condition as
well as the differences in software used to implement the BART.
Each ination of the balloon using the software in Study 3 was
larger, leading to fewer pumps being necessary to ll the screen
and thus less overall pumps and bursts. Such reduced range may
have impaired the ability to detect a drug effect.
Another consideration is whether or not playing the BART
with actual money would have changed the results. Although
some controversy exists about the differential role of hypothet-
ical relative to monetary reinforcers on decision-making tasks
(Johnson and Bickel, 2002;Madden et al., 2003;Hinvest and
Anderson, 2010), it appears that when real monetary reinforcers
have differential effects they tend to amplify the differences
between conditions (Bowman and Turnbull, 2003). For exam-
ple, large monetary losses in a modied form of the BART
led to greater neural reactivity and reductions in risk behav-
ior than hypothetical losses (Xu et al., 2018). Thus, employing
a BART with real money could potentially enhance the effects of
Future directions
In addition to decreases in risk perception, other psychologi-
cal processes are likely involved in acetaminophen’s effects on
risk taking. One possible unexplored mechanism is anticipatory
experienced anxiety. It may be that as the balloon increases in
size, those on placebo feel increasing amounts of anxiety about
a potential burst. When the anxiety becomes too much, they
end the trial. Acetaminophen may reduce this anxiety, thus
leading to greater risk taking. As indicated in the supplement,
self-reported affective experiences to the BART did not differ
between conditions, but these recalled emotions may not reect
affective responses experienced in the moment.
Additionally, there are many potentially interesting ways in
which we might examine the impact of risk taking on tasks
that involve stronger positive affect. It may be the case that
risk-taking tasks that focus on the positive affect associated
with gains may actually show reverse effects of acetaminophen
due to acetaminophen’s affect-blunting effects. For instance, if
we manipulated the BART to make gain events more salient
(adding sounds and visuals) or more intense (larger payoffs),
acetaminophen may decrease risk taking.
Alternatively, acetaminophen’s effects on risk taking may
be driven less by affective inuences on judgment than by
effects on another psychological process such as learning dur-
ing the task (Pearson et al., 2018) or error monitoring. Event-
related potentials (ERPs) recorded during a Go/No-Go task, for
example, showed that acetaminophen reduced the error pos-
itivity (Pe), which partially mediated acetaminophen-induced
increases in omission errors (Randles et al., 2016). The Pe is a
signal that appears to be associated with the emergence of con-
scious awareness of committing an error (Nieuwenhuis et al.,
2001;Murphy et al., 2012) and highly correlated with activity in
the anterior insula (Ullsperger et al., 2010). Of note, the associa-
tion of greater anterior insula activation with anticipated risk is
one of the most reliable ndings in the neural decision-making
literature (Knutson and Huettel, 2015). Because acetaminophen
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2020, Vol. 15, No. 7730
blunts activity in the anterior insula (Dewall et al., 2010) as
well as the Pe, it may be inuencing risk-related processing
particularly at a conscious level. Dissecting such inuences on
the BART could provide insight into additional psychological
mechanisms accounting for the drug-induced increase in risk
Another question for future research will be identifying
the biological mechanisms responsible for these effects of
acetaminophen. Like more conventional nonsteroidal anti-
inammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin,
acetaminophen inhibits the production of prostaglandins in
the brain (Flower and Vane, 1972). The administration of such
drugs might provide insight into whether the prostaglandins
are involved in risk judgments as well as which enzymes
producing prostaglandins (cyclooxygenase 1 and cyclooxyge-
nase 2) are greater contributors to the effect. Alternatively,
acetaminophen may exert its effects on risk taking through a dif-
ferent biological pathway than the prostaglandins, potentially
through the vanilloid, cannabinoid or serotoninergic systems
(Graham et al., 2013).
Potential implications
With nearly 25% of the population consuming acetaminophen
each week (Kaufman et al., 2002), reduced risk perceptions
and increased risk taking could have important societal effects.
Many areas of daily life require making decisions that involve
the processes examined here. For example, many patients in
the hospital have acetaminophen in their systems when pre-
sented with risk information and asked to make potentially
life-changing risk assessments such as whether or not to do an
invasive surgery. Similarly, when driving, one is regularly
presented with decisions that involve risk perception and
assessment. Thus, it is imperative that we understand
acetaminophen’s effects on choices made and risks taken. Risk
perception and risk taking are judgments and decisions that can
affect many aspects of our lives, and this common, over-the-
counter drug may inuence this process, unbeknownst to the
millions taking the drug.
We would like to acknowledge the helpful assistance of Liv Bobb,
Amanda Brown, Brittany Boltz, Michael Butrey, Japera Benson,
Nicole Hadjisofocli, Catie Johnson, Elianna Miller, Cori O’Boyle,
Maggie Walsh and Zachary Weisenseel.
Supplementary data
Supplementary data are available at SCAN online.
Open practices
The consent form completed by participants in these studies
stated, ‘Only the investigators and their research assistants will
have access to the original research data’. As a consequence, we
cannot share the original data publicly at this time. However, for
anyone interested in accessing the data for verifying our analy-
ses, please contact the authors. Study 1 (
and the online study reported in the supplemental material
( were preregistered with the Open Science
This research was generously supported by funds from the Ohio
State University as well as the National Science Foundation
(Award #1558230; Peters (PI), Way (Co-I)). The funders had no
inuence on the design, collection, analysis and interpretation
of the data, writing of the report and decision to submit this
article for publication.
Conict of interest
The authors do not have any conicts of interest.
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... Both patients and physicians very frequently use and prescribe, respectively, antipyretics as a commonly available and over-the-counter medication to dampen fever-related discomfort and pain [21,23,27,28]. Yet, in this context, the use of acetaminophen (N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-ethanamide), known also as paracetamol, to treat early pre-hospitalization COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, has been recently debated by papers dealing with fever in COVID-19 [29][30][31][32]. Peluso et al., who described fever as a complex phenomenology during SARS-CoV2 infection, suggested to properly managing fever during severe COVID-19, reporting that targeting temperature management should help patients with severe symptoms to increase their survival possibility, although the complexity of body temperature maintenance during COVID-19 cannot allow physicians to recommend an aggressive antipyretic therapy [32]. ...
... Pain and discomfort overwhelm any good intention to fit this consideration, however. Keaveney et al., reported a paper where they assessed the reduced risk perception on one's own health in taking and even abusing with acetaminophen, despite its acknowledged danger [30,38]. However, the more general consideration about acetaminophen is that the antipyretic drug is harmless, probably because people consider that fever is very common. ...
Full-text available
The COVID‐19 pandemic is a highly dramatic concern for mankind. In Italy, the pandemic exerted its major impact throughout the period of February to June 2020. To date, the awkward amount of more than 131,000 deaths have been reported. Post‐mortem autopsy was performed on a very modest number of patients who died from COVID‐19 infection, leading to a first confirmation of an immune‐thrombosis of the lungs as the major COVID‐19 pathogenesis, likewise for SARS. Since then (June‐August 2020), no targeted early therapy considering this pathogenetic issue was approached. The patients treated with early anti‐inflammatory, anti‐platelet, anticoagulant, and antibiotic therapy confirmed that COVID‐19 was an endothelial inflammation with immuno‐thrombosis. Patients not treated or scarcely treated with the most proper and appropriate therapy and in the earliest, increased the hospitalization rate in the intensive care units and also mortality, due to immune‐thrombosis from the pulmonary capillary district and alveoli. The disease causes widespread endothelial inflammation, which can induce damage to various organs and systems. Therapy must be targeted in this consideration and in this review, we demonstrate how early anti‐inflammatory therapy treats endothelia inflammation and immune‐thrombosis caused by COVID‐19, by using drugs we are going to recommend in this paper.
... The photocatalytic activity of the samples was evaluated in the degradation of two drugs that are consumed in large quantities in daily life: acetaminophen (ACE) [31] and ibuprofen (IBF) [32]. Figure 6 displays the photocatalytic activity of the semiconductors. ...
Full-text available
g-C3N4 powders were double exfoliated by means of the microwave technique and heat treatment. X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscope (SEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), N2 physisorption, and UV–visible (UV–vis) were carried out for the evaluation of composition, structure, morphology, surface area, and optical properties. XRD and FTIR analysis confirmed that the crystal structure and functional groups of g-C3N4 is maintained after the double exfoliation. The g-C3N4 double exfoliation (MWT-C3N4) achieved to increase the surface area about two times more. The sample MWT-C3N4 presented the best photocatalytic; i.e., the sample that showed the highest surface area and lower recombination of electron–hole pair. The photocatalytic activity was evaluated in the degradation of acetaminophen (ACE) and ibuprofen (IBF). From the UV–Vis spectra, it was possible to identify the intermediates of the degradation of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. It was found that photo-holes (h⁺) are responsible for the degradation of ACE. In the case of the degradation of IBF the h⁺ were the main oxidizing species and followed by hydrogen peroxide that participate in the photocatalytic process.
... In humans, albeit unaltering physiological (e.g., salivary cortisol) responses to an acute psychosocial stress (e.g., trier social stress test, TSST), paracetamol reduces ratings of how challenging the TSST is, suggesting lower psychological stress [16]. The drug also seems to reduce stress by minimizing anxiety, blunting emotions of "fear-from-pain" in dental patients [17], and increasing human risk-taking behavior, likely due to lowering their risk perception [18]. However, increased anxiety is also reported as a side effect of paracetamol clinical use [19]. ...
Typically triggered by stress, anxiety disorders are most common and widespread mental illnesses. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is rapidly becoming an important aquatic model species in stress research and central nervous system (CNS) drug screening. Paracetamol is currently the most prescribed medication for pain and fever, and is among the most commonly used drugs globally. However, its CNS effects, especially on anxiety in clinical and animal studies, remain poorly understood. Capitalizing on zebrafish as a powerful model system, here we evaluate the effects of paracetamol on anxiety-like behavior in adult fish, and its changes following an acute stress exposure. Overall, we report an anxiolytic-like profile of acute paracetamol, and its alleviation of stress-evoked anxiety, in adult short-fin wild type zebrafish. Collectively, these findings suggest complex neuroactive effects of paracetamol, and reinforce the growing importance of zebrafish models for drug screening, including the search for novel anti-stress therapies.
... The article entitled "Effects of acetaminophen on risk taking" (Keaveney et al., 2020) concluded that acetaminophen increased risk taking behaviors, potentially by reducing perceived risk. These conclusions were drawn from experimental computerized tasks designed to simulate risk taking, as well as questionnaires used to evaluate risk perception. ...
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The article by Keaveney et al. entitled “Effects of acetaminophen on risk taking” was published in July of 2020 and concluded that using acetaminophen increased risk taking behaviors, potentially by reducing perceived risk. We believe there is not enough data to support the generalization of this association, and feel the conclusions were presented without acknowledgement of the limitations of this study. Media articles often further dramatized these findings, presenting the potential correlation between acetaminophen and risk taking as fact. It is unfair to readers to sensationalize the associations seen in controlled experiments in an attempt to generalize the study’s findings. As scientists, we need to assure that the discussions and conclusions presented in publications appropriately highlight the limitations of studies. We must also work to assure that the public does not sensationalize preliminary and limited research results.
Zusammenfassung. Die Therapie von Rückenschmerzen, speziell die medikamentöse Schmerztherapie mit Opioiden, führt bei der behandelnden Ärztin/beim behandelnden Arzt oft zum Dilemma. Spezifische Rückenschmerzen werden durch gezielte Bildgebung diagnostiziert und operativ oder medikamentös erfolgreich therapiert. Im Gegensatz dazu können bei nicht-spezifischen Rückenschmerzen unbegründete Bildgebung, zweifelhafte Operationsindikationen und unkontrollierte Medikamentengabe die Schmerzen verstärken. Hier ist die Aufrechterhaltung der Aktivität und die Bewegungstherapie zentral für die Therapie. Beim Einsatz von Opioiden verhält es sich ähnlich. Opioide sind potente Medikamente zur kurzfristigen Schmerztherapie. Langzeitanwendung kann die Schmerzen verstärken und Störungen im Hormonhaushalt mit Einschränkungen der Lebensqualität und Libido bewirken. Ausserdem haben Opioide ein Gewöhnungs- und Suchtpotenzial. Eine Opioidtherapie, wenn überhaupt, sollte nur nach frustraner Nicht-Opioid-Therapie, zeitlich begrenzt (möglichst kürzer als vier Wochen) und nach klaren Richtlinien erfolgen.
Because of the importance of economic decisions, researchers have looked into what factors influence them. Gender has received a lot of attention for explaining differences in behavior. But how much can be associated with gender, and how much with an individual’s biological sex? We run an experimental online study with cis- and transgender participants that (1) looks into correlational differences between gender and sex for competitiveness, risk-taking, and altruism by comparing decisions across these different subject groups. (2) we prime participants with either a masculine or feminine gender identity to examine causal gender effects on behavior. We hypothesize that if gender is indeed a primary factor for decision-making, (i) individuals of the same gender (but different sex) make similar decisions, and (ii) gender priming changes behavior. Based on 780 observations, we conclude that the role of gender (and sex) is not as decisive for economic behavior as originally thought.
The Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) is a sequential decision making paradigm that assesses risk-taking behavior. Several computational models have been proposed for the BART that characterize risk-taking propensity. An aspect of task performance that has proven challenging to model is the learning that develops from experiencing wins and losses across trials, which has the potential to provide further insight into risky decision making. We developed the Scaled Target Learning (STL) model for this purpose. STL describes learning as adjustments to an individual's strategy in reaction to outcomes in the task, with the size of adjustments reflecting an individual's sensitivity to wins and losses. STL is shown to be sensitive to the learning elicited by experimental manipulations. In addition, the model matches or bests the performance of three competing models in traditional model comparison tests (e.g., parameter recovery performance, predictive accuracy, sensitivity to risk-taking propensity). Findings are discussed in the context of the learning process involved in the task. By characterizing the extent to which people are willing to adapt their strategies based on past experience, STL is a step toward a complete depiction of the psychological processes underlying sequential risk-taking behavior.
Comme tout médicament, la kétamine a une action sur les plans sensoriel et psychique chez tout sujet. Que vivent et que nous rapportent les patients sous kétamine de leurs sensations et plus généralement de la sensorialité sous kétamine ? Il s’agit dans cet article de questionner ce qui se passe pour nos patients qui font l’expérience de la kétamine dans la prise en charge des douleurs chroniques et de le mettre en perspective avec la clinique psychopathologique du trauma et de la douleur chronique. Il convient de nous interroger sur la fonction que vient tenir, pour le patient, la demande de kétamine et celle que tient, pour le prescripteur, la proposition d’un tel traitement quand cela fait courir le risque de venir geler un travail d’appropriation d’un corps vécu et capable d’agir sur le monde.
People’s expectations concerning the functional properties and efficacy of pharmaceuticals are influenced by a wide variety of product-extrinsic factors, such as the colour (of both product and pack), form (e.g., tablet vs. capsule), and shape (e.g., round, oval, or diamond-shaped) of medicines, and the multisensory design of the product packaging. The sound symbolic properties of a medicine’s brand name, as well as its processing fluency, have also been shown to exert a significant influence over people’s expectations. However, given that non-adherence has long been a key issues with medical treatment, further research is urgently needed in order to determine the extent (albeit likely limited) to which these various product-extrinsic factors influence non-compliance, while at the same time avoiding the confusion that has been caused by the proliferation of look-alike/sound-alike drugs in the marketplace in recent years. Further research is also needed in order to help establish the cross-cultural consensuality of the meanings that are attached by consumers to these various different product-extrinsic sensory cues (especially colour) in the pharmaceutical category, and to firmly establish the robustness of any colour-based placebo effects. At the same time, however, it is currently unclear which cue (or cues) dominate(s) when multiple product attributes are manipulated simultaneously given that the influence of colour, shape, sound symbolism, etc., have typically only been studied individually to date. The multisensory design of pharmaceuticals and their packaging therefore constitutes a particularly intriguing, not to mention important, applied area for food/sensory scientists, marketing researchers, and cognitive neuroscientists.
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Acetaminophen has been shown to influence cognitive and affective behavior possibly via alterations in serotonin function. This study builds upon this previous work by examining the relationship between acetaminophen and dual-learning systems, comprising reflective (rule-based) and reflexive (information-integration) processing. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, a sample of community-recruited adults (N = 87) were randomly administered acetaminophen (1000 mg) or placebo and then completed reflective-optimal and reflexive-optimal category learning tasks. For the reflective-optimal category learning task, acetaminophen compared to placebo was associated with enhanced accuracy prior to the first rule switch (but not overall accuracy), with needing fewer trials to reach criterion and with a faster learning rate. Acetaminophen modestly attenuated performance on the reflexive-optimal category learning task compared to placebo. These findings indirectly support two positions that have been proposed elsewhere. First, they are consistent with the view that acetaminophen has an influence on the serotonergic system. Second, the findings are consistent with a proposed link between elevated serotonin function and relative dominance of effortful, rule-based processing.
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Human decisions are more easily affected by a larger amount of money than a smaller one. Although numerous studies have used hypothetical money as incentives to motivate human behavior, the validity of hypothetical versus real monetary rewards remains controversial. In the present study, we used event-related potential (ERP) with the balloon analogue risk task to investigate how magnitudes of real and hypothetical monetary rewards modulate risk-taking behavior and feedback-related negativity (FRN). Behavioral data showed that participants were more risk averse after negative feedback with increased magnitude of real monetary rewards, while no behavior differences were observed between large and small hypothetical monetary rewards. Similarly, ERP data showed a larger FRN in response to negative feedback during risk taking with large compared to small real monetary rewards, while no FRN differences were observed between large and small hypothetical monetary rewards. Moreover, FRN amplitude differences correlated with risk-taking behavior changes from small to large real monetary rewards, while such correlation was not observed for hypothetical monetary rewards. These findings suggest that the magnitudes of real and hypothetical monetary rewards have differential effects on risk-taking behavior and brain activity. Real and hypothetical money incentives may have different validity for modulating human decisions.
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Acetaminophen has recently been recognized as having impacts that extend into the affective domain. In particular, double blind placebo controlled trials have revealed that acetaminophen reduces the magnitude of reactivity to social rejection, frustration, dissonance, and to both negatively- and positively-valenced attitude objects. Given this diversity of consequences, it has been proposed that the psychological effects of acetaminophen may reflect a widespread blunting of evaluative processing. We tested this hypothesis using event-related potentials (ERPs). Sixty-two participants received acetaminophen or a placebo in a double-blind protocol and completed the Go/NoGo task. Participants' ERPs were observed following errors on the Go/NoGo task, in particular the error-related negativity (ERN; measured at FCz) and error-related positivity (Pe; measured at Pz and CPz). Results show that acetaminophen inhibits the Pe, but not the ERN, and the magnitude of an individual's Pe correlates positively with omission errors, partially mediating the effects of acetaminophen on the error rate. These results suggest that recently documented affective blunting caused by acetaminophen may best be described as an inhibition of evaluative processing. They also contribute to the growing work suggesting that the Pe is more strongly associated with conscious awareness of errors relative to the ERN.
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Neuroimaging methods (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging or FMRI) can now resolve momentary changes in deep brain activity that not only correlate with but also predict risky choice. Accumulating evidence beginning from financial choice studies but extending into other domains indicates that risk assessment recruits activity in multiple core components which differentially promote (e.g., ventral striatum) versus inhibit (e.g., anterior insula) risky choice. Further, frontal control circuits may modulate the influence of these core components on risky choice. These findings point toward an emerging consensus about a 'risk matrix' whose components unite previously disparate literatures related to anticipation of reward versus pain and whose measurement can improve the prediction of risky choice.
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Many recent discussions have focused on the role of replication in psychological science. In this article, we examine three key issues in evaluating the conclusions that follow from results of studies at least partly aimed at replicating previous results: the evaluation and status of exact versus conceptual replications, the statistical evaluation of replications, and the robustness of research findings to potential existing or future “non-replications.” In the first section of the article, we discuss the sources of ambiguity in evaluating failures to replicate in exact as well as conceptual replications. In addressing these ambiguities, we emphasize the key role of psychometric invariance of the independent and dependent variables in evaluations of replications. In the second section of the article, we use a meta-analytic framework to discuss the statistical status of replication attempts. We emphasize meta-analytic tools that have been used too sparingly, especially in evaluation of sets of studies within a single article or focused program of research. In the final section of the article, we extend many of these meta-analytic tools to the evaluation of the robustness of a body of research to potential existing or future failures to replicate previous statistically significant results.
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Acetaminophen, an effective and popular over-the-counter pain reliever (e.g., the active ingredient in Tylenol), has recently been shown to blunt individuals' reactivity to a range of negative stimuli in addition to physical pain. Because accumulating research has shown that individuals' reactivity to both negative and positive stimuli can be influenced by a single factor (an idea known as differential susceptibility), we conducted two experiments testing whether acetaminophen blunted individuals' evaluations of and emotional reactions to both negative and positive images from the International Affective Picture System. Participants who took acetaminophen evaluated unpleasant stimuli less negatively and pleasant stimuli less positively, compared with participants who took a placebo. Participants in the acetaminophen condition also rated both negative and positive stimuli as less emotionally arousing than did participants in the placebo condition (Studies 1 and 2), whereas nonevaluative ratings (extent of color saturation in each image; Study 2) were not affected by drug condition. These findings suggest that acetaminophen has a general blunting effect on individuals' evaluative and emotional processing, irrespective of negative or positive valence. © The Author(s) 2015.
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The current crisis in scientific psychology about whether our findings are irreproducible was presaged years ago by Tversky and Kahneman (1971), who noted that even sophisticated researchers believe in the fallacious Law of Small Numbers-erroneous intuitions about how imprecisely sample data reflect population phenomena. Combined with the low power of most current work, this often leads to the use of misleading criteria about whether an effect has replicated. Rosenthal (1990) suggested more appropriate criteria, here labeled the continuously cumulating meta-analytic (CCMA) approach. For example, a CCMA analysis on a replication attempt that does not reach significance might nonetheless provide more, not less, evidence that the effect is real. Alternatively, measures of heterogeneity might show that two studies that differ in whether they are significant might have only trivially different effect sizes. We present a nontechnical introduction to the CCMA framework (referencing relevant software), and then explain how it can be used to address aspects of replicability or more generally to assess quantitative evidence from numerous studies. We then present some examples and simulation results using the CCMA approach that show how the combination of evidence can yield improved results over the consideration of single studies. © The Author(s) 2014.
Simulation theories of empathy hypothesize that empathizing with others’ pain shares some overlapping psychological computations with the processing of one’s own pain. Support for this perspective has largely relied on functional neuroimaging evidence of an overlap between activations during the experience of physical pain and empathy for other people’s pain. Here, we extend the functional overlap perspective to the neurochemical level and test whether a common physical painkiller, acetaminophen (paracetamol), can reduce empathy for another’s pain. In two double-blind placebo-controlled experiments, participants rated perceived pain, personal distress, and empathic concern in response to reading physical or social pain scenarios, witnessing ostracism in the lab, or visualizing another study participant receiving painful noise blasts. As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others’ pain. Acetaminophen also reduced the unpleasantness of noise blasts delivered to the participant, which mediated acetaminophen's effects on empathy. Together, these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy. Because empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen, which is taken by almost a quarter of US adults each week.
Psychological and behavioral economic theories have shown that people often make irrational and suboptimal decisions. To describe certain decisions, people often use words related to pain (“hurt,” “painful”). Neuroscientific evidence suggests common overlap between systems involved in physical pain and decision-making. Yet no prior studies have explored whether a pharmacological intervention aimed at reducing physical pain could reduce the pain of decision-making. The current investigation filled this gap by assigning participants to consume the physical painkiller acetaminophen or placebo and then exposing them to situations known to produce cognitive dissonance (Experiment 1) or loss aversion (Experiment 2). Both experiments showed that acetaminophen reduced the pain of decision-making, as indicated by lower attitude change that accompanies cognitive dissonance and lower selling prices when selling personal possessions.
ABSTRACT Humans perceive and act on risk in two fundamental ways. Risk as feelings refers to individuals' instinctive and intuitive reactions to danger. Risk as analysis brings logic, reason, and scientific deliberation to bear on risk management. Reliance on risk as feelings is described as “the affect heuristic.” This article traces the development of this heuristic and discusses some of the important ways that it impacts how people perceive and evaluate risk.