Is there an easy way to increase your pain tolerance?

Recent research (Carney, Cuddy & Yap, 2010) has shown that adopting a powerful pose changes people’s hormonal levels and increases their propensity to take risks in the same ways that possessing actual power does. In the current research, we explore whether adopting physical postures associated with power, or simply interacting with others who adopt these postures, can similarly influence sensitivity to pain. We conducted two experiments. In Experiment 1, participants who adopted dominant poses displayed higher pain thresholds than those who adopted submissive or neutral poses. These findings were not explained by semantic priming. In Experiment 2, we manipulated power poses via an interpersonal interaction and found that power posing engendered a complementary (Tiedens & Fragale, 2003) embodied power experience in interaction partners. Participants who interacted with a submissive confederate displayed higher pain thresholds and greater handgrip strength than participants who interacted with a dominant confederate.

Highlights

We find that adopting physical postures associated with power, or simply interacting with others who adopt such postures, can influence individuals’ sensitivity to pain. Participants who adopted dominant postures (in the form of expansive yoga poses) displayed higher pain thresholds than those who adopted submissive or neutral poses (more constrictive yoga poses). Further, participants who interacted with a confederate who behaved dominantly (e.g., leaning back in a chair expansively) as opposed to submissively (e.g., slouching down in a chair) also experienced differential changes in pain threshold—in this case, the changes were complementary to the postures of the confederate: interacting with a dominant confederate decreased pain thresholds, while interacting with a submissive confederate increased pain thresholds. This work provides evidence for the subtle ways in which interacting with others (e.g., caregivers or doctors) can influence an individual’s pain tolerance.

Source: “It hurts when i do this (or you do that): Posture and pain tolerance” from Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

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