To treat a headache or back pain most people reach for a pain killer — a bottle of aspirin or acetaminophen or similar. Wouldn't it be nice if you could do the same thing for hurt feelings? One new study suggests that maybe you can.
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure participants' brain activity (Experiment 2), and found that acetaminophen reduced neural responses to social rejection in brain regions previously associated with distress caused by social pain and the affective component of physical pain (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula). Thus, acetaminophen reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with the pain of social rejection, demonstrating substantial overlap between social and physical pain.
In other words, their experiments showed that popping a pain-pill helped ease the pain of hurt feelings, too. The study, "Acetaminophen reduces social pain: behavioral and neural evidence," appears in the July issue of Psychological Science. The article appears to be behind a paywall, but you can read an abstract at the NIH's site.