Pain demands attention: a cognitive-affective model of the interruptive function of pain

Psychol Bull. 1999 May;125(3):356-66. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.3.356.


Pain interrupts and demands attention. The authors review evidence for how and why this interruption of attention is achieved. The interruptive function of pain depends on the relationship between pain-related characteristics (e.g., the threat value of pain) and the characteristics of the environmental demands (e.g., emotional arousal). A model of the interruptive function of pain is developed that holds that pain is selected for action from within complex affective and motivational environments to urge escape. The implications of this model for research and therapy are outlined with an emphasis on the redefinition of chronic pain as chronic interruption.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Pain / psychology*