The physical and psychological experience of pain: the effects of labeling and cold pressor temperature on three pain measures in college women

Pain. 1998 Jul;77(1):41-48. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(98)00080-3.


Using the cold pressor test, three experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of water temperature and labeling on three dependent measures in college women: behavioral pain tolerance (BPT), a sensory rating of the pain experience (SR) and a parallel affective rating of the experience (AR). Temperature of the cold pressor was varied as the physical factor; labels (discomfort, pain, vasoconstriction pain) were varied as the psychological factor. Experiment I varied only water temperature; colder temperatures led to significantly lower BPT scores and significantly higher SR and AR scores. Experiment 2 varied only labeling and demonstrated that BPT decreased and AR increased as labels became more painful-sounding; in contrast, SR was unaffected by labeling. In Experiment 3 both the psychological and physical factors were varied simultaneously. Results indicated significantly higher BPT scores as the water temperature increased and the pain label became more benign. In addition, both SR and AR were sensitive to changes in temperature, whereas only AR was affected by changes in labeling.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Students