A new study suggests the popular painkiller Tylenol does more than reduce pain — it can actually reduce your ability to imagine other people’s pain. Researchers at Ohio State University conducted three experiments on college students to test whether acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol and many other prescription and over-the-counter painkillers, affects users’ abilities to empathize with others who are experiencing physical or emotional pain. Their findings were published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
The first experiment called for 80 college students to consume 1,000 mg of acetaminophen and subsequently assess various scenarios of someone experiencing pain. One scenario featured a character receiving a knife wound that reached the bone; another involved a person grieving the loss of his father. The students were asked to rate the pain on a scale of one to five. These ratings were compared to a control group that had consumed a placebo.