Article

Judgments about pain intensity and pain genuineness: the role of pain behavior and judgmental heuristics.

Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
The journal of pain: official journal of the American Pain Society (Impact Factor: 4.22). 02/2011; 12(4):468-75. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.10.010
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The primary objective of the present study was to examine the relative importance of pain behaviors and judgmental heuristics (eg, gender stereotypes) in observers' inferences about pain intensity and pain genuineness. Participants (n = 90) observed video depictions of chronic pain patients performing a physically challenging task and were asked to make inferences of pain intensity and pain genuineness. Analyses indicated that observers relied on judgmental heuristics and pain behaviors both when making inferences about pain intensity and when making inferences about pain genuineness. Follow-up analyses, however, revealed that judgmental heuristics (eg, gender stereotypes) were significantly less utilized when observers made inferences about pain genuineness than when observers made inferences about pain intensity. When observers made inferences about pain genuineness, analyses indicated that patients' facial pain behaviors became the most important source of information. Taken together, these findings suggest that observers who are asked to make inferences about the genuineness of others' pain are likely to reduce their reliance on judgmental heuristics in favor of more controlled and thoughtful inferential processes characterized by detailed processing of behavioral information, particularly others' facial pain behaviors. PERSPECTIVE: The current study provides new insights into the processes that are involved in observers' inferences about pain intensity and pain genuineness. These inferences play an important role in treatment decisions and advances in this domain could ultimately contribute to more effective management of the challenges facing patients with pain-related disorders.

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