Author(s): Jackson T, Iezzi T, Chen H, Ebnet S, Eglitis K
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Abstract Two experiments assessed how interpersonal transactions influence responses to cold pressor pain in women versus men. In Experiment 1, 91 young adults (57 women, 34 men) were randomly assigned to either a no transaction (NT) condition in which they coped alone with the cold pressor test or a transaction opportunity (TO) condition in which they also had the option of interacting with an empathetic, reflecting experimenter. Compared to men, women had lower pain tolerance and reported more pain and catastrophizing, although there were no gender differences in support seeking or other ways of coping. Within the TO condition, women were no more likely than men to initiate a transaction, but female speakers were more pain-focused than male speakers, and speaking with the empathetic interaction partner had generally negative effects on pain perception and coping. In Experiment 2, 126 young adults (76 women, 50 men) were randomly assigned to NT, TO, or experimenter-directed (1) Distraction (DT), (2) Reinterpretation (RT), or (3) Encouragement (ET) conditions. Although men had similar levels of pain tolerance across the 5 transaction conditions, women in NT and TO conditions exhibited reduced tolerance compared with those in the DT, RT, and ET conditions. Pain tolerance times among women in DT, RT, and ET conditions were equal to or exceeded those of men in these conditions. Together, findings suggest the nature of interpersonal transactions exerts a greater influence on women's responses to noxious stimulation than those of men. PERSPECTIVE: This study adds to literature indicating that women exhibit reduced tolerance for experimentally induced pain compared with men. These results suggest that the nature of interpersonal transactions also affects women's responses to noxious stimulation, more than those of men.
This article was published in J Pain
and referenced in Journal of Pain & Relief