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Social Support and Experimental Pain

Brown, Jennifer L. MA; Sheffield, David PhD; Leary, Mark R. PhD, and; Robinson, Michael E. PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.PSY.0000030388.62434.46

Objective The purpose of this experimental study was to supplement and expand on clinical research demonstrating that the provision of social support is associated with lower levels of acute pain.

Methods Undergraduates (52 men and 49 women) performed the cold pressor task either alone or accompanied by a friend or stranger who provided active support, passive support, or interaction. Pain perception was measured on a 10-point scale.

Results Participants in the active support and passive support conditions reported less pain than participants in the alone and interaction conditions, regardless of whether they were paired with a friend or stranger.

Conclusions These data suggest that the presence of an individual who provides passive or active support reduces experimental pain.

From the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology (J.L.B., M.E.R.), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; Department of Psychology (D.S.), Staffordshire University, Staffordshire, United Kingdom; and Department of Psychology (M.R.L.), Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Address reprint requests to: Michael E. Robinson, PhD, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, PO Box 100165 HSC, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0165. Email:

Received for publication June 12, 2001; revision received April 22, 2002.

Copyright © 2003 by American Psychosomatic Society
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