Nobody likes the feeling of being left out, and when it happens, we tend to describe these experiences with the same words we use to talk about the physical pain of, say, a toothache.
“People say, ‘Oh, that hurts,’ ” says Nathan DeWall, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.
DeWall and his colleagues were curious about the crossover between physical pain and emotional pain, so they began a series of experiments several years back.
In one study, they found that acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) seemed to reduce the sting of rejection that people experienced after they were excluded from a virtual ball-tossing game.
The pain pills seemed to dim activity in regions of the brain involved in processing social pain, according to brain imaging. “People knew they were getting left out [of the game], it just didn’t bother them as much,” DeWall explains.