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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Sep 2019 - 27 Sep 2019

2019 Nov 11

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci



The facial expression of pain in humans considered from a social perspective.


Kappesser J
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2019 Nov 11; 374(1785):20190284.
PMID: 31544612.


The social modulation of pain in humans has been neglected so far with respect to verbal as well as non-verbal communication of pain. The facial pain expression is a powerful way to communicate pain, and there are some theoretical accounts available on how social modulation may affect the encoding of the facial expression of pain. Some accounts, particularly in the pain field, are proximate explanations on the mechanisms involved, whereas an evolutionary psychology account takes a more comprehensive approach. A review of nine experimental studies revealed that in the majority of studies (6/9), social context had an effect on the facial pain expression, but results were inconsistent. Several conceptual and methodological issues are discussed which may explain these inconsistencies and could help in design of future experimental studies. This article is part of the Theo Murphy meeting issue 'Evolution of mechanisms and behaviour important for pain'.