Justin A Wellman

Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York, United States

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Publications (11)27.17 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Placebo effects are important in pain reduction, but the effects are inconsistent. Prior experience with a pain stimulus may moderate placebo analgesia. The current study tests the effect of prior experience with a pain stimulus on placebo analgesia during a laboratory pain task. Healthy normotensive undergraduates (66 women, 68 men) who either did or did not report prior experience with pain from submerging a limb in cold water were enrolled. In the laboratory, an experimenter applied an inert, medicinal-smelling cream to participants' non-dominant hand. Participants randomized to the no-expectation group were told that the cream was a hand cleanser. Participants randomized to the placebo expectation group were told that the cream would reduce the pain associated with the cold pressor task. Participants then completed the cold pressor task and reported their pain on the short form of the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Analysis of variance revealed a main effect of expectation (p < .05), such that participants in the placebo expectation group reported less pain. An interaction was also found between expectation and prior experience (p < .05), such that participants with prior experience with pain from cold water immersion showed no difference in pain reports between expectation groups. In a pain context, prior experience with the pain stimulus may prevent a placebo expectation from reducing the experience of pain.
    Journal of behavioral medicine. 07/2014;
  • Andrew L Geers, Justin A Wellman, Stephanie L Fowler
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    ABSTRACT: Comparative optimism and dispositional optimism are typically studied separately and little is known regarding their unique and combined predictive abilities. We examined how these two types of optimism predict cognitive and affective reactions following unpleasant dental health feedback (Studies 1 and 2) and neutral feedback (Study 2). In Study 1, dispositional optimism and a measure of dental health comparative optimism interacted to predict appraisals of dental health feedback. In Study 2, dispositional optimism and dental health comparative optimism interacted to predict appraisals of new dental health information following negative dental health feedback - but not following neutral feedback. Individuals scoring high in dispositional optimism and low in dental health comparative optimism were more interested in and receptive to the dental health feedback than those scoring high in both types of optimism. Finally, greater dental health comparative optimism was associated with less negative affect following the dental health feedback, whereas dispositional optimism was associated with greater positive affect under all conditions. The results indicate that comparative and dispositional optimism are unique as well as interactive predictors.
    Psychology & Health 07/2012; · 1.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Based on prior research identifying dispositional optimism as a predictor of placebo responding, the present study tested the hypothesis that individuals high in optimism would be more likely to respond to a placebo analgesic. Optimists and pessimists were randomly assigned to a placebo expectation condition or a no expectation condition before a cold pressor task. Blood pressure and heart rate were recorded before and during the cold pressor task, and participant ratings of pain and expectations were obtained immediately after the task. Analysis of the expectation manipulation revealed that the placebo instruction was successful in altering participant expectancy during the cold pressor. Supporting the main hypothesis, dispositional optimism was associated with lower pain ratings in the placebo condition but not in the control condition. Because dispositional optimism can alter placebo responding to laboratory pain, future studies should examine the potential role that this individual difference factor may play in patient responsivity to pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments for clinical pain. PERSPECTIVE: This study examined the possibility that individual differences can predict placebo analgesia. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo expectation or no expectation before a cold pressor task. Dispositional optimism was related to less cold pressor pain in the placebo condition as compared with the control condition.
    The journal of pain: official journal of the American Pain Society 11/2010; 11(11):1165-71. · 3.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In a laboratory study we examined the hypothesis that placebo expectations enhance the initial identification of placebo-relevant sensations over placebo-irrelevant sensations. Participants (N = 102) were randomly assigned to one of three expectation groups. In the first group, participants ingested a placebo capsule and were told it was caffeine (deceptive expectation). In a second group, participants ingested a placebo capsule and were told it may be caffeine or it may be a placebo (double-blind expectation). Participants in the third group were given no expectation. All participants then tallied the placebo-relevant and placebo-irrelevant sensations they experienced during a 7-min period. Participants in the deceptive expectation group identified more placebo-relevant sensations than placebo-irrelevant sensations. No-expectation participants identified more placebo-irrelevant sensations than placebo-relevant sensations. Participants given the double-blind expectation identified an equal amount of placebo-relevant and irrelevant sensations. The amount of both placebo-relevant and placebo-irrelevant sensations detected mediated the relationship between the expectation manipulation and subsequent symptom reports. These data support the position that expectations cause placebo responding, in part, by altering how one identifies bodily sensations.
    Journal of Behavioral Medicine 11/2010; 34(3):208-17. · 3.10 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It has been proposed that dispositional optimism is positively associated with treatment program engagement. However, conflicting evidence exists regarding this relationship. We examined whether the importance of a treatment goal moderates this association. In Study 1 (N = 95), individuals high in optimism were more interested in attending a nutrition education program when the importance of nutrition was first highlighted. In Study 2 (N = 91), participants were given the opportunity to attend psychotherapy to address an academic problem. Dispositional optimism was associated with greater treatment attendance when participants rated their problems as high, relative to low, in importance. It is concluded that the personality variable of dispositional optimism does relate to interest and attendance in treatment, however, treatment goal importance moderates these relationships. It is recommended that practitioners and researchers take an interactionist approach when assessing the role of personality and situational factors in treatment program interest and attendance.
    Journal of Behavioral Medicine 04/2010; 33(2):123-34. · 3.10 Impact Factor
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    Justin A Wellman, Alexander M Czopp, Andrew L Geers
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    ABSTRACT: Standing up against prejudice often requires one to surmount powerful inter- and intra-individual forces. Egalitarian standards alone are often insufficient to surmount these forces. As individuals high in dispositional optimism vigorously pursue valued goals, even when threatened with obstacles, we propose that the combination of high optimism and salient egalitarian goals predicts the confrontation of prejudice. In the present study, individuals high and low in both optimism and prejudice were randomly assigned to hear a racist joke followed by an argument, or to hear the same joke but without the argument. We found that low-prejudice optimists who had their chronic egalitarian values made salient by hearing the argument were highly likely to confront a later act of prejudice. Self-report data closely mirrored this behavioral finding. These findings support a self-regulatory approach to confrontation and suggest new avenues for combating prejudice.
    The Journal of Positive Psychology 09/2009; 4(5):389-395. · 1.67 Impact Factor
  • Jessica Fosnaugh, Andrew L Geers, Justin A Wellman
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    ABSTRACT: Research on generalized optimism has been primarily correlational in nature. The authors attempted to experimentally manipulate optimism separately from several related constructs (i.e., mood and self-esteem). They examined 2 different optimism manipulations. For the 1st one, participants generated thoughts about positive future events to induce an optimistic orientation. For the 2nd one, the authors exposed participants to an optimism-priming task. Both manipulations produced modest increases on a dispositional optimism measure and a situational optimism measure, compared with a control group. The momentary increases appeared particular to the optimism construct because the authors did not find similar increases on measures of mood and self-esteem. The authors provide preliminary evidence that generalized optimism can be validly and discriminantly manipulated.
    The Journal of Social Psychology 07/2009; 149(3):349-64. · 0.64 Impact Factor
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    Andrew L Geers, Justin A Wellman, G Daniel Lassiter
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    ABSTRACT: Research indicates that a positive relationship generally exists between dispositional optimism and goal engagement and attainment. The authors argue, however, that dispositional optimism may not always be associated with more active goal pursuit. Rather, they hypothesized that this relationship is moderated by how highly a goal is prioritized. For high-priority goals, they predicted that optimistic individuals would indeed increase goal engagement and would be more likely to attain their goal relative to individuals low in optimism. For low-priority goals, they anticipated that optimistic individuals would not display greater goal engagement or attainment. In 5 studies they assessed these predictions across a variety of domains, including friendship formation, exercise persistence, and scholastic achievement. Results supported their contention that goal priority acts as a moderator of the relationship between dispositional optimism and both goal engagement and goal attainment. Evidence of 1 mediator of this moderation effect-behavioral intentions-and of a limiting factor-the temporal ordering of goals-is also presented.
    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 05/2009; 96(4):913-32. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Prior studies with patient samples have found dispositional optimism to be associated with less pain. We examined the relationship between optimism and experimental pain. It was hypothesized that optimists generally cope with a painful stimulus by mentally disengaging from the pain. However, if optimists are prompted to think about health and well-being prior to the painful event, they are more responsive to the pain. Optimists and pessimists were primed with words related to health or with neutral words prior to the cold pressor task. Pain, distress, and cardiovascular reactivity to the cold pressor task were assessed. Dispositional optimism was associated with lower pain sensitivity, distress, and cardiovascular reactivity in the neutral prime condition. In the health prime condition, optimists and pessimists did not differ on any of the dependent measures. Dispositional optimism is associated with reduced pain for healthy adults encountering a brief pain stimulus. This relationship is eliminated, however, when individuals are primed with thoughts of health and well-being. The results are interpreted as evidence for the use of differential coping strategies by optimists in response to pain.
    Annals of Behavioral Medicine 01/2009; 36(3):304-13. · 4.20 Impact Factor
  • Justin A. Wellman, Andrew L. Geers
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    ABSTRACT: Psychological Reactance is typically studied using conscious manipulations and individual-difference measures. We hypothesized that, similar to other goals, a reactance motive can be primed nonconsciously. In this experiment, participants were given an explicit expectation that a pill would improve their performance on an accuracy task, or they were not given this expectation. Participants also received a reactance or neutral prime. On a subsequent accuracy task, participants given both the reactance prime and the explicit accuracy expectation committed the most errors. The findings suggest that reactance can be nonconsciously primed, generating behavioral effects. Evidence supporting the goal-priming interpretation is also presented.
    Basic and Applied Social Psychology 01/2009; 31(1):9-16. · 0.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A prior investigation found that individuals low in optimism are more likely to follow a negative placebo (nocebo) expectation. The present study tested the hypothesis that individuals high in optimism are more likely to follow a positive placebo expectation. Individuals (N=56) varying in their level of optimism were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. In the first condition, participants were given the expectation that a placebo sleep treatment would improve their sleep quality (placebo expectation condition). In the second condition, participants engaged in the same sleep treatment activity but were not given the positive placebo expectation (treatment control condition). Finally, a third group did not receive the positive placebo expectation and also did not engage in the placebo sleep treatment (no-placebo control condition). Optimism was positively associated with better sleep quality in the placebo expectation condition (r=.48, P<.05). Optimism scores were not associated with better sleep quality in either the treatment control condition (r=-.17, P=.46) or the no-placebo control condition (r=-.24, P=.35). Dispositional optimism relates to placebo responding. This relationship, however, is not manifested in a simple increase or decrease in all types of placebo responding. Rather, it appears that, as optimism increases, response to the positive placebo expectation increases, whereas response to nocebo expectation decreases. It is recommended that future research on personality and placebo effects consider the interaction between situational and dispositional variables.
    Journal of Psychosomatic Research 06/2007; 62(5):563-70. · 3.27 Impact Factor