This meta-analysis (k = 48, N = 2196) examined the effect of transcranial direct current brain stimulation (tDCS) applied to the prefrontal cortex on a variety of social behaviors, including aggression, overeating, impulsivity, bias, honesty, and risk-taking. tDCS showed an overall significant effect on reducing undesirable behaviors, with an average effect size of d = −0.20. tDCS was most effective at reducing risk-taking behavior, bias, and overeating. tDCS did not affect aggression, impulsivity, or dishonesty. We examined moderators such as brain region of interest, online vs offline stimulation, within- vs between-subjects designs, dose, and duration, but none showed significant interactions. We also tested for potential publication bias using two different tools, which indicated signs of publication bias in the literature. After correcting for potential publication bias, the effect of tDCS was still significant, but the size was reduced (d = −0.10). These findings suggest the presence of tDCS studies with null findings outside of the published literature. Taken together, these results suggest that although tDCS can reduce undesirable behaviors, researchers should consider the types of behaviors they measure and use strategies to ensure sufficient power to detect a possible effect of tDCS on social behavior.

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Published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, v. 13, issue 9, p. 899-906.

© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com

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