Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful. – John Wooden
These last couple of days, Ohio State’s social psychology program has been hounded by news reporters. And not just my graduate program more generally, but my lab more specifically…
What was the scandal? Who was spotted with the Kardashians’ mother? Why are a bunch of glasses-wearing, big-word-using academics suddenly so popular?
(Hint: It involves science.)
As it turns out, two graduate students from my lab, Geoff Durso and Andy Luttrell along with a professor Baldwin Way, published some pretty interesting research. So interesting in fact, that a number of news outlets have picked up the story and been contacting these intelligent gentlemen for comments.
In order for this public surge to amass, the way it often works in academia is like this: First you come up with a novel or paradoxical research idea, test it, then get it published (I made that sound quick and easy, but these guys spent around 2 years on this part).
Second, you and the school public relations representative draft a “press release.” Journalists and reporters then scan a lot of different press releases and find the ones they think are most intriguing. In this case, Geoff and Andy’s work was one of them.
Third, bask in the glory of scientific fame as you answer inane questions from reporters.
Fourth, (if you’re me) regret that your blog wasn’t the first one to break this exciting research (I knew about this stuff for ages, but when do I decide to write about it? Oh, I don’t know, after EVERYONE ELSE HAS ALREADY TALKED ABOUT IT. Curse me and my strict write-blogs-on-only-Wednesday rule).
So what is the research you ask?
A while back I wrote about the fact that Tylenol has been shown to not only reduce physical pain, but also psychological pain—such as from social rejection or anxiety. In fact, a lot of work has accumulated to show that Tylenol can reduce a lot of negative symptoms besides just physical pain.
But the question no one was asking—the one Geoff and Andy asked themselves—was this: If Tylenol is blunting all these negative things, what’s it doing to the positive ones?
Geoff and Andy’s research gave one group of participants Tylenol and the other group placebo (not telling participants which was which). They then exposed the participants to a lot of emotionally evocative images (both positive and negative).
The researchers (my friends; these famous individuals I pranked for April Fool’s) found that the participants taking Tylenol had muted emotional reactions to both the positive and negative pictures. That is, taking Tylenol reduces the intensity for which you feel emotions—both the good and bad ones!
Now, this doesn’t mean you should quit taking Tylenol entirely, but it does help provide new insight into a drug that’s taken by millions every day. So the next time you see someone popping Tylenol you can tell them this interesting fact and then add, “Oh yeah, and I read the blog of a guy who works with them.”
You’ll be the coolest kid in town.
Durso, G., Luttrell, A., & Way, B. (2015). Over-the-counter relief from pains and pleasures alike: Acetaminophen blunts evalaution sensitivity to both negative and positive stimuli. Psychological Science. p. 1-9
A Tylenol Addict
I’ve seen their study linked to on many websites in the past week. My question is: how is Tylenol reacting to the news? Are they attacking it, deriding it, or accepting it? Tylenol is big $$$ and I hope they don’t go after all of you.
That’s so cool that you’ve seen the study, too! It kept popping up on my facebook feed, but I figured that’s because I’m surrounded by people interested in this topic.
As for Tylenol’s response, I haven’t heard of one. However, my guess would be that if they did want to “attack” the study, they could say that the effects are relatively small. That is, even though Tylenol significantly reduced the experience of emotions, it was by half a scale point and so people are unlikely to really notice a difference. And for that reason, I don’t think Tylenol is too concerned about it.