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Social modeling influences on self-report and facial expression indices of cold-induced pain Patrick, Christopher John


Socialization has been identified as one important source of individual differences in pain expression (Craig, 1980). Previous laboratory studies (e.g. Craig, 1978a; Craig & Coren, 1975; Craig & Prkachin, 1978) had shown that self-report, physiological, and psychophysical indices of electric shock-induced pain could be influenced by social modeling. The present study attempted to replicate these findings using a different noxious stimulus, the cold pressor test, and two separate indices of the pain experience - self-report and facial expression. Subjects (72 female introductory psychology students, ages 17 to 25 years) undertook the cold pressor test and rated their discomfort in the presence of either a tolerant, an intolerant, or an inactive model. Half the subjects in each of these three groups were permitted to see both the model and the model's ratings of discomfort (visual condition); the other half were screened from the model, and saw only the model's discomfort ratings (nonvisual condition). Subjects' facial expressions were videotaped during the cold pressor test and subsequently scored using the Facial Action Coding System (Ekman & Friesen, 1978b). It was hypothesized that subjects exposed to a tolerant model would report less pain, endure the cold pressor for a longer period of time, and show fewer facial signs of pain than control group subjects; intolerant-modeling subjects were expected to show more distress on both self-report and facial measures. Moreover, modeling group differences in facial expression were expected to be more pronounced in the visual condition. The results indicated that only self-report indices of pain were influenced by the modeling manipulation, even in the visual condition. However, further analyses suqgested that facial indices of pain do not covary with self-report, even amongst control subjects; facial signs of distress were most prominent at the onset of noxious stimulation, although self-reported discomfort increased over exposure time. The results were discussed in light of past research on cold-induced pain (e.q. Wolf & Hardy, 1941). Also, facial actions associated with pain in the present study were contrasted with earlier descriptions of the pain expression (Hjortsjo, 1969). Finally, a discussion was made of implications for future research.

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