Background: Research on disparities in the treatment of pain has shown that minorities receive less aggressive pain management than non-minorities. While reasons include physician bias, the focus of this study was to examine whether differences in pain reporting behavior might occur when pain is reported to individuals of a different race or gender.
Objective: To test whether gender and racial concordance might influence pain reporting and pain behavior in a laboratory setting.
Design/setting: By using a two (subject race)-by-two (subject gender)-by-two (experimenter race)-by two (experimenter gender) quasi-experimental design, pain was assessed in a laboratory through a standard cold pressor task administered by someone whose gender and/or race was similar or dissimilar.
Subjects: Subjects were 343 (156 men; 187 women) undergraduates whose ages ranged from 17 to 43 years (mean 20.27 years).
Outcome measures: Pain tolerance was assessed by total immersion time in the ice bath. Pain ratings were obtained by using Gracely scales, which rate the intensity and unpleasantness of the task.
Results: Total immersion time was shorter for both blacks and women, and both blacks and women reported higher pain intensity and unpleasantness. Racial and gender concordance did not influence pain reporting or pain tolerance, but interactions between subject race and experimenter gender, as well as subject gender and experimenter race, were revealed.
Conclusions: Racial and gender concordance did not influence pain reporting; however, pain reporting was influenced by interactions between gender and race in the subject-experimenter dyads.