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Facial expressions of pain in chronic pain and experimentally induced pain

Nelson, Ariel (2013) Facial expressions of pain in chronic pain and experimentally induced pain. University of Buckingham.

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Abstract

Research has revealed the existence of genuine, exaggerated and suppressed pain facial expressions, which can be influenced by pain type, previous experience with pain, and empathy. The present study investigated how observers with and without chronic pain perceive genuine and deceptive pain expressions, in individuals experiencing chronic pain and experimental pain. The study comprised of three phases. Phase one involved collecting facial expressions of pain. Ten female participants took part (five with chronic pain and five experiencing experimental pain). Genuine, exaggerated, suppressed and neutral expressions were collected. Phase two was a pilot study of the images from Phase one. Phase three was a survey of the facial expressions. Forty three participants took part (23 with chronic pain and 20 with no pain). Participants categorised expressions and rated images’ pain intensity. Findings revealed that observers struggled to distinguish between genuine and deceptive pain expressions, however experimental pain expressions were easier to read than chronic pain expressions. Similarly, observers with no pain were better at reading expressions than observers with chronic pain. Empathy had little effect on pain intensity ratings. The findings are considered with regards to previous research, and methodological limitations, implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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