The effects of videotaped modeling and imagined analgesia on acute pain: a signal detection analysis

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The present study examined the effects of videotaped modeling and imagined analgesia instructions as treatments for acute pain in the context of a signal detection paradigm. A signal detection analysis was used because it allows differentiation between sensory-discriminative and motivational-affective components of pain. The treatment conditions used were: 1) tolerant modeling, 2) intolerant modeling, 3) modeled imagined analgesia which combined tolerant modeling and imagined analgesia instructions, 4) imagined analgesia instructions, 5) an expectancy control treatment in which the subjects were told to expect a decrease in the amount of pain experienced, and 6) no treatment control.

Subjects were sixty female undergraduate volunteers who were randomly assigned to one of five treatment groups. The noxious stimuli were five levels of radiant heat, including zero. Subjects participated in pre- and post—treatment sessions in which they received thirty stimulus presentations per level and were requested to rate each presentation on a scale from zero to six, with seven being a withdrawal. Self-report-anxiety measures were also taken.

The results indicated that the tolerant modeling, modeled imagined analgesia, and imagined analgesia treatments reduced the subjects' response bias. In addition, the tolerant modeling and modeled imagined analgesia treatments reduced physical sensitivity to the lowest level of heat stimulation. Analyses of the anxiety data indicated that all groups experienced a reduction in state anxiety over time.

The implications that these data have with respect to current psychological theories of pain are discussed. In addition, the results of this study are discussed from the perspective of self-efficacy theory to attempt to explain the treatment effects seen.