Effects of preparatory information about sensations, threat of pain, and attention on cold pressor distress

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Abstract

Three experiments with 170 male undergraduates investigated pain experience conceptualized as a combination of stimulus sensations (e.g., aching) and emotional distress. In Exp I, less distress was reported to cold pressor stimulation by Ss first told about stimulus sensations than by Ss who were uninformed or were told about symptoms of bodily arousal (e.g., tension). Adding a pain warning to sensation information blocked distress reduction, presumably by eliciting an emotional interpretation of the stimulus. In Exp II, Ss attending only to hand sensations reported less distress than Ss attending to their bodies. This decrease in the power of the stimulus to provoke emotion is presumably mediated by a schema of hand sensations formed by attention. In Exp III, Ss attending to hand sensations early in the immersion and distracting themselves later reported the same low levels of distress as did Ss who attended to hand sensations throughout. Ss distracted throughout and Ss attending to hand sensations later showed no distress reduction. Therefore, stimulus schematization must precede distress reduction. (64 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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