Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Psychology

Advisor(s)

Dr. Michael Hall

Abstract

Several cognitive coping strategies for reducing pain sensation have been identified, but their effects have traditionally only been examined in isolation. The current investigation instead compared the effectiveness of traditional cognitive coping strategies based upon imagery and pain acknowledgement/attention against an “integrated” strategy (that required both strategies to be used in combination) within a cold pressor test (CPT). Participants (N = 24, Mage= 19.46, SD = 1.47) underwent a baseline condition followed by counterbalanced strategy trials: imagery, attention, & integrated condition. Tolerance times, pain ratings, and perceived control ratings were recorded. The imagery condition had lower pain ratings and higher perceived control ratings compared to the baseline and attention condition but did not statistically differentiate from the integrated condition on any measure. In contrast, pain ratings were higher, and perceived control ratings were lower, in the attention condition relative to baseline, a finding which was not predicted by previous research. This suggests that, at least in its current form, attending to pain could actually represent absence of a coping strategy. Additionally, performance levels in the integrated strategy were consistently between those observed with the imagery strategy and the remaining conditions, suggesting that while imagery in the integrated strategy did help to alleviate pain, unfamiliarity with the integrated approach may have limited the extent of its observed effectiveness. This possibility of further pain-reducing effects following training with the integrated strategy warrants further investigation.

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