Interpersonal behavior in anticipation of pain

C.E. Ashton-James, J.M. Tybur, T. Forouzanfar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Social relationships facilitate coping with pain, but research suggests that it may be difficult to galvanize social supportduringan episode of acute pain.Objectives: The current research examined whether social connections are optimized in theanticipationof pain by observing patients' mimicry of an interaction partner prior to surgery. We hypothesized that when controlling for their current experience of pain, patients' anticipation of pain would be associated with greater mimicry of an interaction partner.Methods: Sixty-five patients were interviewed in the waiting room of a maxillofacial surgery unit prior to the removal of an impacted wisdom tooth. Patients' spontaneous mimicry of an interviewer was observed. Patients then rated the quality and intensity of their anticipated pain, as well as the intensity of their current pain and their affective distress.Results: Anticipated pain, current pain, and affective distress were positively correlated. Current pain was associated with less frequent mimicry of an interaction partner. The zero-order correlation between anticipated pain and mimicry did not reach conventional levels of significance; however, when controlling for current pain, anticipated pain predicted more frequent mimicry of an interaction partner. The relationship between anticipated pain and mimicry was not explained by affective distress.Conclusion: This is the first study to demonstrate that anticipated and current pain relate to behavioral mimicry in divergent ways. Further research is needed to investigate whether the current pattern of results generalizes to other interpersonal behaviors that facilitate social bonds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e605
JournalPain Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Journal Article

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