Partners' Empathy Increases Pain Ratings: Effects of Perceived Empathy and Attachment Style on Pain Report and Display.

The journal of pain : official journal of the American Pain Society

PubMedID: 24953886

Hurter S, Paloyelis Y, de C Williams AC, Fotopoulou A. Partners' Empathy Increases Pain Ratings: Effects of Perceived Empathy and Attachment Style on Pain Report and Display. J Pain. 2014;.
Pain can be influenced by its social context. We aimed to examine under controlled experimental conditions how empathy from a partner and personal attachment style affect pain report, tolerance and facial expressions of pain. Fifty-four participants, divided into secure, anxious and avoidant attachment style groups, underwent a coldpressor task with their partners present. We manipulated how much empathy the participants perceived their partners had for them. We observed a significant main effect of perceived empathy on pain report, with greater pain reported in the high perceived empathy condition. No such effects were found for pain tolerance or facial display. We also found a significant interaction of empathy with attachment style group, with the avoidant group reporting and displaying less pain than the secure and the anxious groups in the high perceived empathy condition. No such findings were observed in the low empathy condition. These results suggest that empathy from one's partner may influence pain report, beyond behavioural reactions. In addition, the amount of pain report and expression people show in high empathy conditions depends on their attachment style.PERSPECTIVE
Believing that one's partner feels high empathy for one's pain may lead individuals to rate the intensity of pain as higher. Individual differences in attachment style moderate this empathy effect.