There are various factors that influence our day-to-day reactions and perceptions. This myriad of events, occurring daily, affects many of our psychological and biological functions. In a related study, Cohen et al. (1996) explored how social experiences such as background and culture can influence the way individuals respond socially and biologically. They compared northern and southern responses to aggressive stimuli (a shove followed by the verbal insult “asshole”). Not only did the researchers predict hostility in the southern participants, but they also observed a measurable change in physiological processes such as increased testosterone and cortisol levels. Like aggression, pain often easily becomes the forefront emotion. It shifts the individual’s cognitive and psychological attention to it (Eccleston & Crombez, 1999). Pain is also similar to induced aggression in that it varies according to the present circumstance. Pain ...view middle of the document...
Lastly, pain sensitivity and perception relate to the individual’s pain threshold. This is when an noxious stimulus becomes truly uncomfortable or painful.
As stated above, there are a number of variables affecting the influence, disability and perception of pain. Perhaps one of the most studied is that of stress and its effects on the numbing or exacerbation of pain. Schwier et al. (2010) found, using an ascending method of limits (i.e. when the stimulus, in this case temperature, starts at a comfortable baseline and is then changed gradually), that patients suffering from major depression disorder are desensitized towards external stimuli (e.g. cold pressor). This is in agreement with research by Alder and Gattaz (1993) which indicates that the absolute somatosensory and pain perception thresholds positively correlate with depression. These studies illustrate how psychological stressors may lead to a shift in pain perception.
Stress and socially influenced pain are often regarded as two of a kind. They seem to affect pain thresholds and tolerance similarly. This may be due to the tendency for important social relationships to produce the most stress. A clearer understanding on how stress and socially related interactions moderate individual experiences is needed.
Further studies on the subjects of stress and social pain have have presented an opposite effect. A study performed by Naomi et al. (2006) found that participants in the experimental group following a social exclusion exercise (i.e. a software program where the participants play catch with confederates, e.g., cyberball) and experienced an acute exogenous thermal stimulus reported greater pain unpleasantness compared to the control group (i.e. not socially excluded). This research even extends to rats who, having been manipulated to experience social isolation stress, recruit greater pain aversion efforts (Bravo et al., 2013), indicating a more pain-sensitive rat.
The results of these puzzling and contradicting findings (i.e. stress and social rejection either increasing or decreasing pain sensitivity and threshold) required deciphering. Bernstein and Claypool’s (XXXX) work examined these opposing outcomes.