Conference Talk—SMPC 2019: The Effect of Acetaminophen on Music, Speech, and Natural Sounds

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Description: The capacity of listeners to perceive or experience emotions in response to music, speech, and natural sounds depends on many factors including dispositional traits, empathy, and enculturation. Emotional responses are also known to be mediated by pharmacological factors, including both legal and illegal drugs. Existing research has established that acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter pain medication, blunts emotional responses to visual stimuli (e.g., Durso, Luttrell, & Way, 2015). The current study extends this research by examining possible effects of acetaminophen on both perceived and felt responses to emotionally-charged sound stimuli. Additionally, it tests whether the effects of acetaminophen are specific for particular emotions (e.g., sadness, fear) or whether acetaminophen blunts emotional responses in general. Finally, the study tests whether acetaminophen has similar or differential effects on three categories of sound: music, speech, and natural sounds. The experiment employs a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled design. Participants are randomly assigned to ingest acetaminophen or a placebo. Then, the listeners are asked to complete two experimental blocks regarding musical and non-musical sounds. The first block asks participants to judge the extent to which a sound conveys a certain affect (on a Likert scale). The second block aims to examine a listener’s emotional responses to sound stimuli (also on a Likert scale). In light of the fact that some 50 million Americans take acetaminophen each week, this study suggests that future studies in music and emotion might consider controlling for the pharmacological state of participants.

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