Biological sex and social setting affects pain intensity and observational coding of other people’s pain behaviors
ABSTRACT This experiment examines the impact of biological sex and audience composition on laboratory-induced ischemic pain intensity and observational coding of other people's pain behaviors. Situational context was manipulated by varying the sex and number of audience stimuli in the laboratory setting during the pain task and during observational evaluations of other people's pain suffering. The analyses revealed sex differences in felt pain intensity and observable pain behaviors, with male subjects reporting lower pain intensity and evidencing fewer pain behaviors than female subjects on average. Follow-up analyses revealed that, after controlling for social anxiety, audience composition was linked to felt pain intensity, and this relation was moderated by participant sex and audience sex, such that only male subjects showed decreased pain intensity with increasing number of female audience members. Sex differences were also found in the rating of other people's pain behaviors, with male observers rating the pain of others lower than female observers. Composition of the audience influenced observers' pain ratings such that the presence of more male subjects in the audience correlated with lower observer ratings, whereas the presence of more female subjects correlated with higher observer ratings. This is the first study to show that the sex and the composition of the social context in which pain is experienced affects the intensity of felt pain and the evaluation of other people's pain suffering. Implications of the findings for measuring and interpreting pain suffering in male and female patients by male and female treatment providers in health care settings are discussed.
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ABSTRACT: We explored the social-signaling hypothesis that variability in exogenous pain sensitivities across the menstrual cycle is moderated by women's current romantic relationship status and hence the availability of a solicitous social partner for expressing pain behaviors in regular, isochronal ways. In two studies, we used the menstrual calendars of healthy women to provide a detailed approximation of the women's probability of conception based on their current cycle-day, along with relationship status, and cold pressor pain and ischemic pain sensitivities, respectively. In the first study (n = 135; 18-46 yrs., Mage = 23 yrs., 50% natural cycling), we found that naturally-cycling, pair-bonded women showed a positive correlation between the probability of conception and ischemic pain intensity (r = .45), associations not found for single women or hormonal contraceptive-users. A second study (n = 107; 19-29 yrs., Mage = 20 yrs., 56% natural cycling) showed a similar association between greater conception risk and higher cold-pressor pain intensity in naturally-cycling, pair-bonded women only (r = .63). The findings show that variability in exogenous pain sensitivities across different fertility phases of the menstrual cycle is contingent on basic elements of women's social environment and inversely correspond to variability in naturally occurring, perimenstrual symptoms. These findings have wide-ranging implications for: a) standardizing pain measurement protocols; b) understanding basic biopsychosocial pain-related processes; c) addressing clinical pain experiences in women; and d) understanding how pain influences, and is influenced by, social relationships.PLoS ONE 03/2014; 9(3):e91993. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0091993 · 3.53 Impact FactorThis article is viewable in ResearchGate's enriched formatRG Format enables you to read in context with side-by-side figures, citations, and feedback from experts in your field.
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ABSTRACT: Mixed associations have been observed between various aspects of 'social support' and patient pain experiences.OBJECTIVE: To explore the possibility that more basic social factors, namely coresidence patterns, may be associated with variability in patient pain experiences.