Wide-spread cultural beliefs influence personal experiences and clinical treatment of pain, yet are often unexamined and unchallenged in the pain literature. The common cultural belief that people generally over-report or exaggerate pain is familiar, reflected in discordant patient-provider pain assessments, and compounded in the context of disparities in pain treatment. However, no studies have directly measured the prevalence of this belief among the general population, nor challenged the validity of this assumption by assessing normative pain reporting in clinical settings. Results of an initial and replication study suggest that reporting pain accurately "as-is" is the norm, yet most people still believe that others normatively over-report pain. We refer to the phenomenon by which most people report their pain as they experience it while paradoxically believing that others over-report their pain as the fundamental pain bias, and suggest this false perception may contribute to larger scale pain stigma and poor outcomes for people in pain. We also identify counter-stereotypical patterns of pain reporting among groups (ie, women, Latinx Americans) that face more disparate care. Results reinforce the need for respecting patient pain reports, and suggest that distrust surrounding others' pain experiences is prevalent in society. PERSPECTIVE: Most people claim to report their pain as accurately as possible, while simultaneously perpetuating common cultural beliefs that others over-report their pain. This fundamental pain bias highlights a pervasive misconception that likely contributes to patient-provider mistrust and broader cultural pain stigma.
Keywords: Pain ratings; cultural narratives; disparities; pain communication; stereotypes.
Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.