Modulation of Social Influence by Methylphenidate

Daniel K. Campbell-Meiklejohn, Arndis Simonsen, Mads Jensen, Victoria Wohlert, Trine Gjerløff, Jorgen Scheel-Kruger, Arne Møller, Chris D. Frith, Andreas Roepstorff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to infer value from the reactions of other people is a common and essential ability with a poorly understood neurobiology.
Commonly, social learning matches one’s values and behavior to what is perceived as normal for one’s social group. This is known as
conformity. Conformity of value correlates with neural activity shared by cognitions that depend on optimum catecholamine levels, but
catecholamine involvement in conformity has not been tested empirically. Methylphenidate (MPH) is an indirect dopamine and
noradrenalin agonist, commonly used for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder for which it reduces undesirable
behavior as evaluated by peers and authority figures, indicative of increased conformity. We hypothesized that MPH might increase conformity of value. In all, 38 healthy adult females received either a single oral 20 mg dose of MPH or placebo (PL). Each subject rated 153
faces for trustworthiness followed immediately by the face’s mean rating from a group of peers. After 30 min and a 2-back continuousperformance working-memory task, subjects were unexpectedly asked to rate all the faces again. Both the groups tended to change their
ratings towards the social norm. The MPH group exhibited twice the conformity effect of the PL group following moderate social conflict,
but this did not occur following large conflicts. This suggests that MPH might enhance signals that would otherwise be too weak to evoke
conformity. MPH did not affect 2-back performance. We provide a new working hypothesis of a neurocognitive mechanism by which
MPH reduces socially disruptive behavior and provides novel evidence of catecholamine mediation of social learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1517–1525
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • conformity
  • influence
  • methylphenidate
  • value
  • dopamine
  • noradrenalin


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