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Papers of the Week

Papers: 22 Feb 2020 - 28 Feb 2020


Human Studies

2020 Feb 27

Scand J Pain

Pain and social cognition: does pain lead to more stereotyped judgments based on ethnicity and age?


Background and aims Previous research on pain and cognition has largely focused on non-social cognitive outcomes (e.g. attention, problem solving). This study examines the relationship between pain and stereotyping, which constitutes a fundamental dimension of social cognition. Drawing on dual process theories of cognition, it was hypothesized that higher levels of pain would increase stereotyped judgments based on ethnicity and age. The hypothesis was tested in conjunction with experimentally induced pain (Study 1) and clinical pain (Study 2). Methods In Study 1, experimental pain was induced with the cold pressor method on a between-subjects basis. Participants (n = 151) completed a judgment task that assessed to what extent they relied on stereotypes (ethnic and age) when estimating other people's cognitive performance. In Study 2, 109 participants with clinical, musculoskeletal pain completed the same stereotype judgment task. Correlations between stereotyped judgments and various pain qualities (intensity, interference with daily activities, duration, and persistence) were performed. Results In Study 1, pain induced participants did not form significantly more stereotyped judgments compared to pain-free participants. However, higher reported pain intensity was associated with more ethnically stereotyped judgments. In Study 2, there were no significant correlations between different aspects of clinical pain and stereotyped judgments. Conclusions The results provide weak support for the hypothesis that pain increases stereotyped judgments. This was the case for both experimentally induced pain and clinical pain. The present study is the first to investigate the link between pain and stereotyping, suggesting that stereotypical judgments may be a social cognitive outcome that is relatively unaffected by pain. Implications The results have practical implications for the clinic, for example, where chronic pain patients may not have greater difficulties interacting with health care professionals that are members of a stereotyped social group (e.g. ethnic).