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Abstract

This study explores the effect of food fantasies on the experience of acute pain. Sixty participants, who experienced acute cold water pain, were randomly assigned to one of the following interventions: (a) Food fantasies, (b) neutral fantasy control (NFC), and (c) non-treatment control (NC). Prior to and after treatment, participants were given measures of pain threshold, pain tolerance, pain intensity, and other scales measuring depression, anxiety, and mood states. Self-report measures included: Pain Anxiety Symptoms Scale (PASS), the revised Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist (MAACL-R), the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) and Semantic Differential Scales for evaluating personal meaning of food fantasies. A cold pressor task was used to induce acute pain. Participants submerged their hand in ice water before and after interventions and pain measures were gathered. The food fantasy participants rehearsed scenarios involving deriving pleasure from eating their favorite meal. Participants next applied food fantasies to cope with ice water pain. The neutral fantasy participants rehearsed imagining neutral fantasies and applied them later during the cold pressor task. Univariate and Multivariate statistics were used to analyze data. Results indicated that food fantasies significantly reduced pain threshold, pain tolerance, pain intensity, and self-reports of pain and anxiety. Food fantasies significantly enhanced positive mood and reduced the negative mood states of the participants (p

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... Each study followed the same procedure: Participants were instructed to fantasize about various pleasurable topics while their hand was submerged in ice water. The topics included "happy moments in their lives" (Hekmat, Staats, & Staats, 2016, p. S103); "pre-rehearsed spiritual fantasies" (Hekmat, Staats, & Staats, 2006, p. S69); "romantic interactions with a soul mate" (Hekmat, Staats, Staats, & Diek, 2007, p. S55); "drinking their favorite beverage" (Hekmat, Staats, Staats, Kowolski, & Pommer, 2009, p. S66); and "eating their favorite meal" (Hekmat, Staats, & Staats, 2008, p. 58). In each study, there were two randomly-assigned control conditions: One in which participants were instructed to fantasize about neutral topics and another in which participants did not receive any instructions about what to think about. ...
Preprint
This chapter is concerned with a type of thinking that has received little attention, namely intentional “thinking for pleasure”—the case in which people deliberately focus solely on their thoughts with the goal of generating positive affect. We present a model that describes why it is difficult to enjoy one's thoughts, how it can be done successfully, and when there is value in doing so. We review 36 studies we have conducted on this topic with just over 10,000 participants. We found that thinking for pleasure does not come easily to most people, but can be enjoyable and beneficial under the right conditions. Specifically, we found evidence that thinking for pleasure requires both motivation and the ability to concentrate. For example, several studies show that people enjoy thinking more when it is made easier with the use of “thinking aids.” We present evidence for a trade-off model that holds that people are most likely to enjoy their thoughts if they find those thoughts to be personally meaningful, but that such thinking involves concentration, which lowers enjoyment. Lastly, we review evidence for the benefits of thinking for pleasure, including an intervention study in which participants found thinking for pleasure enjoyable and meaningful in their everyday lives.
... Each study followed the same procedure: Participants were instructed to fantasize about various pleasurable topics while their hand was submerged in ice water. The topics included "happy moments in their lives" (Hekmat, Staats, & Staats, 2016, p. S103); "pre-rehearsed spiritual fantasies" (Hekmat, Staats, & Staats, 2006, p. S69); "romantic interactions with a soul mate" (Hekmat, Staats, Staats, & Diek, 2007, p. S55); "drinking their favorite beverage" (Hekmat, Staats, Staats, Kowolski, & Pommer, 2009, p. S66); and "eating their favorite meal" (Hekmat, Staats, & Staats, 2008, p. 58). In each study, there were two randomly-assigned control conditions: One in which participants were instructed to fantasize about neutral topics and another in which participants did not receive any instructions about what to think about. ...
... Indeed, one study found that insomniacs got to sleep more quickly when instructed to think about interesting and engaging topics while trying to fall asleep (Harvey & Payne, 2002). Another study found that people reported less pain and kept their hands submerged in ice-cold water longer when told to think about food, spiritual, or romantic topics, compared with neutral topics or no fantasies at all (Hekmat, Staats, & Staats, 2008). ...
Article
Can people enjoy thinking if they set their mind to it? Previous work suggests that many people do not enjoy the deliberate attempt to have pleasurable thoughts. We suggest that deliberately thinking for pleasure requires mental resources that people are either unwilling or unable to devote to the task. If so, then people should enjoy pleasant thoughts that occur unintentionally more than pleasant thoughts that occur intentionally. This hypothesis was confirmed in an experience sampling study (Study 1) in which participants were contacted 4 times a day for 7 days and asked to rate what they had been thinking about. In Studies 2-5 we experimentally manipulated how easy it was for people to engage in pleasurable thought when given the goal of doing so. All participants listed topics they would enjoy thinking about; then some were given a simple "thinking aid" that was designed to make this experience easier. Participants who received the aid found the experience easier and enjoyed it more. The findings suggest that thinking for pleasure is cognitively demanding, but that a simple thinking aid makes it easier and more enjoyable. (PsycINFO Database Record
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