Can photos reduce pain?

Yes. Photos of loved ones can reduce pain and in some situations might be better than having the real person present:

These findings confirm the notion that simply viewing a loved one’s picture can have pain-attenuating effects, and they fit with social psychological research showing that being primed with a social construct is enough to activate associated mental representations and to bias behavior (Ferguson & Bargh, 2004). Thus, seeing photographs of loved ones may prime associated mental representations of being loved and supported, which may be sufficient to attenuate pain experience. The findings suggest that bringing loved ones’ photographs to painful procedures may be beneficial, particularly if those individuals cannot be there. In fact, because loved ones vary in their ability to provide support, photographs may, in some cases, be more effective than in-person support. In sum, these findings challenge the notion that the beneficial effects of social support come solely from supportive social interactions and suggest that simple reminders of loved ones may be sufficient to engender feelings of support.

Source: “A Picture’s Worth, Partner Photographs Reduce Experimentally Induced Pain” from Psychological Science


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