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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Effects of audience on self-report, behavioural and physiological responses to the cold pressor test Badali, Melanie Anne


The present study concerned the influence of the presence of others on pain response. To the extent that pain responses are predicated upon impact on observers, it would be expected that different audiences would have a differential impact on the nature of the response depending upon the measure or response system studied and characteristics of both the person in pain and the audience. The cold pressor test was used to induce pain in 120 healthy undergraduate students. An equal number of males and females were randomly assigned to each of 3 audience conditions (male versus female versus implicit). Dependent variables included behavioural pain tolerance, self-report ratings, heart rate, and facial display. A 3 (audience condition) X 2 (participant gender) between-subjects multivariate analysis of variance indicated that there was an impact of audience on pain responses. Univariate analyses of variance and Student Newman Keuls post hoc comparisons conducted on significant effects indicated higher mean unpleasantness ratings, and maximum heart rate during pain in the implicit group compared to the female and male audience groups. A similar pattern of results was found for judges' ratings of participants' pain based on facial display. Other measures of facial action, self-reported pain intensity and behavioural pain tolerance were not significantly different. These findings stress the importance of considering social context when interpreting pain response. Furthermore, they indicate that that the presence of an audience affects domains of pain response differentially, or that certain dependent measures may not be sensitive or participant to the impact of an audience.

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