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Does physical pain impair abstract thinking?
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6134-0058
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Health and Caring Sciences.
2017 (English)In: Journal of Cognitive Psychology, ISSN 2044-5911, E-ISSN 2044-592X, Vol. 29, no 6, p. 748-754Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The ability to think abstractly constitutes a fundamental dimension of human cognition. Although abstraction has been extensively studied, its emotional and affective antecedents have been largely overlooked. One experiment was conducted to examine whether physical pain affects abstraction. Drawing on Construal Level Theory [Trope, Y., & Liberman, N. (2010). Construal-level theory of psychological distance. Psychological Review117, 440–463] and Loewenstein’s [(1996). Out of control: Visceral influences on behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes65, 272–292] visceral factors theory, we hypothesised that pain impairs abstraction because pain constricts people’s mental horizons and lead to a concrete, inward-focus toward oneself in the here and now. Physical pain was manipulated between subjects (N = 150). The participants either kept their left hand immersed in cold (painful) water or neutral (painless) water while we measured abstract versus concrete behaviour identification, categorisation, and perceptual processing. Bayesian statistical analyses indicate substantial evidence against the hypothesis that pain impairs abstraction. In contrast to many other previously studied cognitive outcomes (e.g. attention), abstraction appears to be largely immune to acute, experimentally induced pain.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2017. Vol. 29, no 6, p. 748-754
Keywords [en]
Abstraction, Physical pain, Construal level
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Social Sciences, Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-61089DOI: 10.1080/20445911.2017.1304941OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-61089DiVA, id: diva2:1078652
Available from: 2017-03-06 Created: 2017-03-06 Last updated: 2018-05-03Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The influence of different pain states on pain perception and cognitive functions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The influence of different pain states on pain perception and cognitive functions
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The general aim of this thesis was to investigate the effect of different pain stateson pain perception and cognition.In the first study, the effect of different pain qualities (duration, persistence, andintensity) on deep pressure pain thresholds in a pain-free body part among patientswith acute pain, long-lasting regularly recurrent pain, and long-lasting persistentpain, and pain-free controls was investigated. Such general deep pressure painthresholds were only significantly lower in the group with long-lasting persistentpain when compared to the healthy controls, suggesting that deep tissuehypersensitivity primarily occurs in patients with long-lasting, persistent pain.In the second study, the relationship between the same pain qualities and cognitiveperformance in the form of sustained attention, cognitive control, and psychomotorability was investigated. Overall, patients with long-lasting, persistent pain showedcognitive impairment on a wider range of cognitive tasks compared to patients withacute or long-lasting, regularly recurrent pain, using pain free controls asbenchmark. The results further suggest that persistence and duration, rather thanpain intensity, contribute to impaired cognitive function in clinical musculoskeletalpain states.In the third study, the effect of acute, experimental pain on abstraction wasexamined in a laboratory experiment where pain was induced with a cold pressorapparatus. The results were consistent with the null hypothesis, suggesting thatabstraction is immune to acute, experimental pain.In the fourth study, the correlation between clinical pain, abstraction and selfcontrolwas examined in patients suffering from musculoskeletal pain of differentduration, persistence and intensity. The results suggest that abstract thinking isreduced with increasing pain intensity and pain persistence. This was also the casefor self-control, although depression seems to mediate this relationship.In conclusion, compared to other pain states, patients who experience long-term,persistent pain, seem to suffer from a broader range of impaired cognitive abilities.Further, deep tissue hypersensitivity seems to develop in patients with long-termpersistent pain, but not in other pain states, which may contribute to the impairedcognitive performance observed in this patient group. The results have importantpractical implications for patients in the clinic and their everyday lives.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Växjö: Linnaeus University Press, 2018
Series
Linnaeus University Dissertations ; 323/2018
Keywords
Persistent pain, Musculoskeletal pain, Cognitive impairment, Abstraction, Pain Thresholds
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Social Sciences, Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-73789 (URN)978-91-88761-65-1 (ISBN)978-91-88761-64-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-06-15, Myrdal, Hus K, äxjö, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-05-03 Created: 2018-05-03 Last updated: 2018-09-20Bibliographically approved

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Agerström, JensGunnarsson, Helena E. M.Stening, Kent

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