Richard D. Mattes


Foods and Nutrition


Didactic Program in Dietetics


chili pepper, ostracism, needs assessment index, sensory, pain overlap theory, psychology


Functional magnetic resonance imaging research has shown that ostracism and physical pain share a common neurological basis in the anterior cingulate cortex. This evidence supports the idea that the sensations of social and physical pain overlap and interact [1]. We evaluated this relationship in human subjects by having 90 psychology students consume spicy tomato soup (the spice used is Capsaicin) to trigger physical pain, and by having them play Cyberball immediately after (Cyberball is an online-ball toss game that is used to manipulate whether the participant is included or ostracized to trigger social pain [2]). Our hypothesis is two-tailed: that chili pepper consumption may increase or decrease feelings of ostracism. To test our hypothesis, we randomized 90 subjects to receive 1 of 4 manipulations: spicy soup and excluded-in-Cyberball, spicy soup and included-in-Cyberball, mild soup and excluded-in-Cyberball, or mild soup and included-in-Cyberball. After these manipulations, the subjects had to answer a validated retrospective needs satisfaction index. This validated index was used to determine the effect of soup and Cyberball on the participant's feelings of social pain. To analyze our results, we used repeated measures ANOVA and then conducted post-hoc analysis with the Tukey HSD to compare multiple least square means. The results show that there was a significant time and group interaction on feelings of belonging, control, self-esteem and meaning existence (P=0.0024). The results suggest that chili-pepper might have a distracting or analgesic effect on social pain.