Effects of distraction and warnings on pain perception

Nadia Maharaj, The College of Wooster


The effects of distraction and warnings on pain ratings were examined. Individuals were exposed to pain by placing their hand in cold water and either had a distraction (watching television) or no distraction. Within the distraction/non-distraction groups, individuals were told they would either be exposed to the pain twice or were told nothing. If participants were warned prior to the second test, they had a chance to brace themselves for the future pain; participants who were not warned did not have this opportunity. All the participants were tested twice. It was found that neither distractions nor a warning had a significant effect on pain ratings. These findings suggest that distractions and bracing do not help reduce pain and that future research is necessary to examine how to reduce the perception of pain.