Objective and Methods
Two experiments examined the impact of viewing unpleasant, pleasant, and neutral photographic slides on cold-pain perception in healthy men and women. In each experiment, participants viewed one of three slide shows (experiment 1 = fear, disgust, or neutral; experiment 2 = erotic, nurturant, or neutral) immediately before a cold-pressor task. Skin conductance and heart rate were recorded during the slide shows, whereas visual analog scale ratings of pain intensity and unpleasantness thresholds and pain tolerance were recorded during the cold-pressor task.
Viewing fear and disgust slides decreased pain intensity and unpleasantness thresholds, but only the fear slides decreased pain tolerance. In contrast, viewing erotic, but not nurturant, slides increased pain intensity and unpleasantness threshold ratings on the visual analog scale in men, whereas neither nurturant nor erotic slides altered pain tolerance.
These results are consistent with a motivational priming model that predicts that unpleasant affective states should enhance pain and that pleasant affective states should attenuate it.