Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 280–287 | Cite as

No pain, no change: Reductions in prior negative affect following physical pain

  • Konrad BresinEmail author
  • Kathryn H. Gordon
  • Theodore W. Bender
  • Linda J. Gordon
  • Thomas E. JoinerJr.
Original Paper


In general, organisms are motivated to avoid stimuli that induce pain. However, some individuals intentionally inflict pain on themselves (e.g., nonsuicidal self-injury) and report doing so for the perceived emotional benefits following the experience of pain. Two controlled laboratory studies sought to expand upon the relatively limited literature on the effects of pain on emotion. In Study 1, participants provided momentary affect ratings immediately before and after experiencing physical pain. Results demonstrated that both positive affect and negative affect (NA) decreased following the experience of pain. In the Study 2, we examined the effect that individual differences in emotional reactivity had on affective reactions to pain. Individuals high in emotional reactivity experienced larger decreases in NA following the experience of pain than individuals who were low in emotional reactivity. Our findings may potentially explain why some individuals intentionally seek out the experience of pain.


Emotional reactivity Negative affect Positive affect Pain Nonsuicidal self-injury 



This research was supported, in part, by a grant from ND EPSCoR to Kathryn H. Gordon (NSF Grant EPS-081442).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Konrad Bresin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kathryn H. Gordon
    • 1
  • Theodore W. Bender
    • 2
  • Linda J. Gordon
    • 3
  • Thomas E. JoinerJr.
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorth Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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