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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 Jul 2023 - 7 Jul 2023

Clinical, Psychology

Human Studies


2023 Jun 30

J Pain


Suggestion Timing Moderates the Effects of Prior Pain Experiences on Pain Perception.


Handley IM, Whillock SR, Langner A, Reiter LA, Geers AL


Two common elements in patient care are reoccurring painful events (e.g., blood draws) and verbal suggestions from others for lessened pain. Research shows that verbal suggestions for lower pain can decrease subsequent pain perception from novel noxious stimuli, but it is less clear how these suggestions and prior painful experiences combine to influence the perception of a reoccurring painful event. The presented experiment tested the hypothesis that the order of these two factors influence pain perception for a reoccurring painful event. All participants (702 healthy college-student volunteers, 58% women, 85.5% White) experienced a novel painful event on one arm, then again on their other arm (now a familiar pain event). Participants who received the suggestion that they can tolerate more pain on the second arm relative to the first from the outset, before the initial pain event, perceived relatively less pain during the repeated event as compared to participants who received the same suggestion after the first painful event or no-suggestion (control). Given many pain events within medical contexts are, or become, familiar to patients, further researching the timing at which patients receive verbal suggestions for lower pain can inform practices to optimize the therapeutic, pain-reducing, potential of such suggestions.