Effects of emotion on pain reports, tolerance and physiology

Leslie E. Carter, Daniel W. McNeil*, Kevin E. Vowles, John T. Sorrell, Cynthia L. Turk, Barry J. Ries, Derek R. Hopko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of specific emotional states on a laboratory pain task were tested by examining the behavioural, verbal and psychophysiological responses of 80 student volunteers (50% female). Participants were assigned to one of four Velten-style emotion-induction conditions (ie, anxiety, depression, elation or neutral). The sexes of experimenters were counterbalanced. Overt escape behaviour (ie, pain tolerance), pain threshold and severity ratings, verbal reports of emotion and physiological measures (ie, electrocardiogram, corrugator and trapezium electromyogram) were recorded. A pressure pain task was given before and after the emotion induction. As predicted, those who participated in the anxiety or depression condition showed reduced pain tolerance after induction of these negative emotions; pain severity ratings became most pronounced in the depression condition. Emotion induction did not have a discernable effect on pain tolerance or severity ratings in the elation condition. A pattern of participant and experimenter sex effects, as well as trials effects, was seen in the physiological data. The influence of negative affective states (ie, anxiety and depression) on acute pain are discussed along with the unique contributions of behavioural, verbal and physiological response systems in understanding the interactions of pain and emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalPain Research and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Emotion
  • Fear
  • Pain
  • Pain tolerance
  • Psychophysiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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