Gender role expectations of pain: relationship to experimental pain perception

Pain. 2002 Apr;96(3):335-42. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3959(01)00473-0.


The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of an individual's Gender Role Expectations of Pain (GREP) on experimental pain report. One hundred and forty-eight subjects (87 females and 61 males) subjects underwent thermal testing and were asked to report pain threshold, pain tolerance, VAS ratings of pain intensity and unpleasantness, and a computerized visual analogue scales (VAS) rating of pain intensity during the procedure. Subjects completed the GREP questionnaire to assess sex-related stereotypic attributions of pain sensitivity, pain endurance, and willingness to report pain. Consistent with previous research, significant sex differences emerged for measures of pain threshold, pain tolerance, and pain unpleasantness. After statistically controlling for age, GREP scores were significant predictors of threshold, tolerance, and pain unpleasantness, accounting for an additional 7, 11, and 21% of the variance, respectively. Sex remained a significant predictor of pain tolerance in hierarchical regression analyses after controlling for GREP scores. Results provide support for two competing but not mutually exclusive hypotheses related to the sex differences in experimental pain. Both psychosocial factors and first-order, biological sex differences remain as viable explanations for differences in experimental pain report between the sexes. It appears that GREP do play a part in determining an individual's pain report and may be contributing to the sex differences in the laboratory setting.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Distribution