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An investigation of the effect of experimental pain on logical reasoning

Attridge, Ninaa,*; Keogh, Edmundb; Eccleston, Christopherb,c

doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001490
Research Paper
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Pain disrupts attention to prioritise avoidance of harm and promote analgesic behaviour. This could in turn have negative effects on higher-level cognitions, which rely on attention. In the current article, we examined the effect of thermal pain induction on 3 measures of reasoning: the Cognitive Reflection Test, Belief Bias Syllogisms task, and Conditional Inference task. In experiment 1, the thermal pain was set at each participant's pain threshold. In experiment 2, it was set to a minimum of 44°C or 7/10 on a visual analogue scale (whichever was higher). In experiment 3, performance was compared in no pain, low-intensity pain, and high-intensity pain conditions. We predicted that the experience of pain would reduce correct responding on the reasoning tasks. However, this was not supported in any of the 3 studies. We discuss possible interpretations of our failure to reject the null hypothesis and the importance of publishing null results.

Pain disrupts attention, which in turn is important for logical reasoning. However, across 3 experiments, induced pain did not affect participants' logical reasoning behaviour.

aMathematics Education Centre, School of Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom

bCentre for Pain Research, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom

cDepartment of Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Corresponding author. Address: 0.28 Schofield Building, School of Science, Loughborough University, LE11 3TU, United Kingdom. Tel.: +441509 223315. E-mail address: n.f.attridge@lboro.ac.uk (N. Attridge).

Sponsorships or competing interests that may be relevant to content are disclosed at the end of this article.

Received September 07, 2018

Received in revised form January 02, 2019

Accepted January 08, 2019

© 2019 International Association for the Study of Pain
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