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Lecture 3

PSYC 302 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Deontological Ethics, Facial Expression, Autotomy

Course Code
PSYC 302
Jeffrey Mogil

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Psychology of Pain—Lecture 3
The Subjectivity of Pain
Physical: a subjective measure would be feelings of tiredness with a physical appearance. An
objective measure would be measuring ability to exert muscle, etc.
Mental: people say they’re tired or can’t think straight (subjective) or they’re given a test
Objective measures are better because they’re easier to compare, allows precision, allow you to
create statistics
Subjective measures are better than objective because that’s what it actually is. Pain itself is
Subjective measure is “the thing.” Objective measure is the proxy of “the things”
Pain Threshold and Tolerance
Test pain by using things like a pressure devices, warm/hot water, etc.
Pain test usually measure pain threshold and pain tolerance
Pain threshold: “tell me the precise moment when this stimulus goes from not being painful to
being painful”
Problem is that it’s hard to decide the precise moment something becomes painful. Especially
when you change something gradually. It’s hard to decide
Pain tolerance: “tell me when you want me to stop”
Problem is a motivational issue. How much are they willing to sacrifice for the study?
These tests really have nothing to do with threshold or tolerance in the real world pain. If you go to
the doctor then obviously it’s above threshold. Tests give you information, but they’re not really
useful for practice
Missing ratings: ok, you’re in pain, but how much pain?
They put it on a continuum from “no pain” to “worst possible pain.” All different types of scales
(numbers, visual, faces, feelings, etc)

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They’re ways of taking something subjective and putting an objective measurement on it
Visual Analogue Scale” is better because it gives you more fluidity. Don’t pick between 1-6, but
you have a dynamic range. ALSO they won’t remember what number they picked last time—it’s not
comparative to last time/before the treatment
Are you asking for how someone is right now or their average/max/min for the past week?
Pegs: what you name the lowest and highest level on a pain scale.
Left peg is always “no pain”
Right peg is something like “worst possible pain,” “unbearable pain,” “excruciating pain,” etc. These
all depend on what you’ve experienced, what you can imagine, what you think of yourself
Sometimes people are given two scales for pain “intensity” and “unpleasantness.Unpleasantness
is more emotional, actual pain is more physical.
Sometimes people are in a lot of pain but it doesn’t bother them.
Logarithmic scales: instead of making the measurements evenly spaced (no pain, little pain,
moderate pain, intense pain, very intense pain, etc.) they give an area like “moderate pain” more
descriptions to choose from
The problem with ratings
People don’t use scales accurately. Things like giving 11. They’re trying to send a message instead
of being accurately.
Using the term “imaginable.” Some people can imagine more pain than others cuz they’ve been in
more paint than others. Someone who has experienced a lot of pain has a bigger scale—same
pain will be a 7 for one person and 4 for someone else
Real vs. Imagined Pain Ratings
Ask people who have and haven’t been in a certain type of pain to rate how painful something
was/would be and people who haven’t experienced the pain will estimate a higher rating. We think
pain is more painful than it is
Pain ratings tell you intensity for a particular time. You have problems comparing them because
some pain lasts longer than others
What’s Driving a Clinical Pain Score?
If someone gives you a rating of 8, we don’t really know what type of pain they’re talking about. Are
they focusing on one type of pain or taking into consideration mental stuff/sleep deprivation and
stuff like that? They might be adding up different types of struggle or focusing too much on one
Ongoing pain
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