Objective: Individuals involved in the early stages of a passionate romantic relationship can be consumed by the experience and report emotional dependence and constant focus on their romantic partner. A few studies have shown that viewing pictures of a romantic partner can significantly reduce experimental pain. The strength of the effect, however, varies substantially between individuals. To study why some individuals experience significant pain reduction when looking at a picture of their partner, we examined partner preoccupation. We hypothesized that a greater degree of preoccupation in the early stages of a romantic relationship would be associated with greater analgesia during a pain induction task.
Methods: Participants were shown pictures of their romantic partner or an equally attractive and familiar acquaintance while exposed to low, moderate, or high levels of thermal pain. Participants were also asked to rate how much time they spent thinking about their romantic partner during an average day. Degree of preoccupation was defined as the percentage of time participants spent thinking about their partner on an average day.
Results: In two separate experiments, viewing pictures of a romantic partner produced an analgesic effect. The degree of pain relief was positively correlated with partner preoccupation. The results suggest that preoccupation with a romantic partner during early stage romantic love is a predictor of pain relief when viewing pictures of the beloved.
Keywords: Pain; Pain Reduction; Preoccupation; Romantic Partner.
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