Negative affect: effects on an evaluative measure of human pain

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Prior work indicates that exposure to fear-inducing shock inhibits finger-withdrawal to radiant heat in humans (hypoalgesia), whereas anxiety induced by threat of shock enhances reactivity (hyperalgesia; Pain 84 (2000) 65–75). Although finger-withdrawal latencies are thought to reflect changes in pain sensitivity, additional measures of pain are needed to determine whether pain perception is altered. The present study examined the impact of negative affect on visual analog scale (VAS) ratings of fixed duration thermal stimuli. One hundred twenty-seven male and female human subjects were randomly assigned to one of three emotion-induction conditions: (1) negative affect induced by exposure to three brief shocks; (2) negative affect elicited by the threat of shock without presentation; and (3) neutral affect, with no intervention. VAS ratings were tested before and after emotion-induction. Results suggest that both negative affect manipulations reduced pain. Manipulation checks indicated that the emotion-induction treatments induced similar levels of fear but with different arousal levels. Potential mechanisms for affect induced changes in pain are discussed.

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