Does failure hurt? The effects of failure feedback on pain report, pain tolerance and pain avoidance

Eur J Pain. 2000;4(4):335-46. doi: 10.1053/eujp.2000.0195.


In this study an experiment was conducted to examine whether failure experiences have an effect on pain report, pain tolerance and pain avoidance. Furthermore, it was investigated if negative affectivity (NA) affected the impact of failure feedback on pain report, either as a mediator, in the case of negative state affect, or as a moderator when NA as a personality trait was considered. Fifty-four healthy female volunteers were included and randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) failure feedback; (2) success feedback; (3) neutral control task. After the manipulation, subjects were given a cold pressor task in order to obtain pain measures. Regarding the effects of failure feedback on pain report, it was found that, in comparison with success feedback, failure feedback led to increased pain report. With regard to pain tolerance, pain was tolerated for longer when preceded by success feedback than when preceded by failure feedback. Differences between failure and control conditions did not reach significance. With regard to pain avoidance, no differences between the conditions were found. The hypothesized mediating role of negative state affect was not found. Though in the hypothesized direction, no significant effect was found for NA-trait moderating the influence of failure on pain. The discussion focuses on a number of research questions that remain to be answered, and the clinical relevance of the effects of failure and success experiences on pain report and pain tolerance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Behavior
  • Biofeedback, Psychology*
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold* / psychology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Regression Analysis
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology