We Discount The Pain Of People We Don't Like

According to a new study published in PAIN®

Philadelphia, PA, October 3, 2011
– If a patient is not likeable, will he or she be taken less seriously when exhibiting or complaining about pain? Reporting in the October 2011 issue of PAIN®, researchers have found that observers of patients estimate lower pain intensity and are perceptually less sensitive to the patients’ pain when the patients are not liked.

40 study participants (17 men and 23 women) were preconditioned by viewing pictures of six different patients tagged with simple descriptions that ranged from negative (egoistic, hypocritical, or arrogant) to neutral (true to tradition, reserved, or conventional) to positive (faithful, honest, or friendly). After this preconditioning process, participants observed short videos of the patients undergoing a standardized physiotherapy assessment. The six patients observed were experiencing shoulder pain and eight short video fragments (2 seconds in duration) of each were selected, resulting in 48 different fragments. After each video fragment, the participants were asked to rate the severity of pain of the patients on a scale of "no pain" to "pain as bad as could be.” Afterwards, the participants were also asked to judge the patients to be negative or positive, disagreeable or agreeable, and unsympathetic or sympathetic.

Investigators found that participants rated patients associated with negative traits as less likeable than patients associated with neutral traits. They rated patients associated with neutral traits as less likable than patients associated with positive traits. Further, pain of disliked patients expressing high intensity pain was estimated as less intense than pain of liked patients expressing high intensity pain. Furthermore, observers were less perceptually sensitive toward pain of negatively evaluated patients than to pain of positively evaluated patients, i.e. they were less able to discriminate between different levels of pain expressed by the disliked patients.

"Identifying variables that influence pain estimation by others is relevant as pain estimation might influence crucial actions concerning pain management both in the professional context as well as in the everyday environment,” commented lead investigator Liesbet Goubert, PhD, assistant professor of Health Psychology and co-investigator Geert Crombez, PhD,head of the Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium. “Our results suggest that pain of disliked patients who express high pain is taken less seriously by others. This could imply less helping behavior by others as well as poorer health outcomes."

The article is “When you dislike patients, pain is taken less seriously” by Lies De Ruddere, Liesbet Goubert, Ken Martin Prkachin, Michael André Louis Stevens, Dimitri Marcel Leon Van Ryckeghem, and Geert Crombez (DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2011.06.028). It appears in PAIN®, Volume 152, Issue 10 (October 2011) published by Elsevier.

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Notes for editors
Full text of the articles is available to credentialed journalists upon request. Contact Christine Rullo at +1 215 239 3709 or painmedia@elsevier.com for copies. Journalists wishing to set up interviews should contact Lies De Ruddere at +32 9 264 86 11, +32 477 76 27 75 (mobile) or Liesbet.Goubert@ugent.be.

You may reach Stephanie Lenoir at the Communication Office, Ghent University, at +32 9 264 82 76 or Stephanie.Lenoir@ugent.be.

About the authors
Lies De Ruddere, MSc
Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Liesbet Goubert, PhD
Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Ken Martin Prkachin, PhD
University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada

Michael André Louis Stevens, PhD
Department of Data Analysis, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Dimitri Marcel Leon Van Ryckeghem, MSc
Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Geert Crombez, PhD
Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

About PAIN®
PAIN®, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain® (IASP®), publishes 12 issues per year of original research on the nature, mechanisms, and treatment of pain. This peer-reviewed journal provides a forum for the dissemination of research in the basic and clinical sciences of multidisciplinary interest and is cited in Current Contents and MEDLINE. It is ranked 2nd out of the 26 journals in the Anesthesiology category according to the Journal Citation Reports 2010 published by Thomson Reuters®.  www.painjournalonline.com

About the International Association for the Study of Pain® (IASP®)
Founded in 1973, IASP® is the world's largest multidisciplinary organization focused specifically on pain research and treatment. It is the leading professional forum for science, practice, and education in the field of pain bringing together scientists, clinicians, health care providers, and policy makers to stimulate and support the study of pain and to translate that knowledge into improved pain relief worldwide. IASP currently has more than 7,500 members from 130 countries and in 85 chapters. www.iasp-pain.org

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. www.elsevier.com

Media contact
Christine Rullo
Elsevier Health Sciences Journals
+ 1 215 239 3709