The Effect of Positive Affect on the Memory of Pain

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Abstract

The aim of the study was to assess the accuracy of the memory of experimentally induced pain and the affect that accompanies experimentally induced pain. Sixty-two healthy female volunteers participated in the study. In the first phase of the study, the participants received three pain stimuli and rated pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, state anxiety, and their positive and negative affect. About a month later, in the second phase of the study, the participants were asked to rate the pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, state anxiety, and the emotions they had felt during the first phase of the study. Both recalled pain intensity and recalled pain unpleasantness were found to be underestimated. Although the positive affect that accompanied pain was remembered accurately, recalled negative affect was overestimated and recalled state anxiety was underestimated. Experienced pain, recalled state anxiety, and recalled positive affect accounted for 44% of the total variance in predicting recalled pain intensity and 61% of the total variance in predicting recalled pain unpleasantness. Together with recent research findings on the memory of other types of pain, the present study supports the idea that pain is accompanied by positive as well as negative emotions, and that positive affect influences the memory of pain.

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