Gender role expectations of pain is associated with pain tolerance limit but not with pain threshold

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Abstract

Gender role expectations of pain (GREP) was suggested to predict sex differences in pain perception. Our aim was to explore sex differences in GREP and investigate its relationship with heat-pain threshold (HPT) and heat-pain tolerance limit (HPTL). University students (115 males, 134 females) filled the GREP questionnaire. HPT and HPTL were measured in a sample of 72 students. Additionally, GREP values of the present sample were compared with those of the original, American sample to explore possible cultural effects.

Both males and females perceive themselves (and their own sex in general) to be less sensitive to pain and less willing to report of pain than the opposite sex. Males perceived themselves and other men, to endure pain relatively similar to women whereas females perceived themselves and other women as less endurable to pain than men. HPT was similar for the two sexes but males had higher HPTL than females. Within each sex, HPTL correlated mainly with self's perception of pain sensitivity. The American and Israeli samples differed in that Israeli males and females presented stronger stereotypical views towards same and opposite sexes.

Both males and females held stereotypical “macho” attitude towards themselves with regard to pain sensitivity and willingness to report of pain however only females held stereotypical, “macho” attitude towards themselves with regard to pain endurance. The sex differences in GREP and in HPTL and the correlations between GREP items and experimental thresholds suggest that the relationship between GREP and experimental pain is complex and sex-specific. It also appears that GREP is affected by culture.

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