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  • 1.
    Agerström, Jens
    et al.
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Psychology.
    Gunnarsson, Helena E. M.
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Psychology.
    Stening, Kent
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Health and Caring Sciences.
    Does physical pain impair abstract thinking?2017In: Journal of Cognitive Psychology, ISSN 2044-5911, E-ISSN 2044-592X, Vol. 29, no 6, p. 748-754Article in journal (Refereed)
    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.

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