Another’s Pain in my Social Brain: The Effects of Placebo (Empathy) Analgesia on Social Behavior (OSF preregistration)

The shared representations account of empathy suggests that sharing other people’s emotions relies on neural processes similar to those engaged when experiencing such emotions oneself. Recent research corroborated this account by showing that experimentally reducing first-hand pain by means of placebo analgesia also resulted in reduced empathy for pain, and decreased activation in the shared neural networks. However, what has not been investigated yet, but is of much greater relevance, is whether the effects of placebo analgesia transfer to actual behavior. In other words, it is still not clear if the reduced empathic abilities, induced with placebo analgesia, have an influence on moral social behavior, that we show towards other, e.g. helping someone in need. With this project we therefore want to investigate in greater detail, to what extent placebo analgesia shows an effect on prosocial behavior.