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The Impact of Acceptance Versus Control Rationales on Pain Tolerance

Abstract

Acceptance approaches, which have been receiving increased attention within behavior therapy, seek to undermine the linkage between private events and overt behavior, rather than attempting to control the form or frequency of private events per se. Research comparing control versus acceptance strategies is limited. The present study examined the behavioral and subjective impact of a control-based versus acceptance rationale, using a cold pressor task. Subjects in the acceptance group demonstrated greater tolerance of pain compared to the control-based and placebo groups. Only the control-based rationale targeted the subjective experience of pain but it did not differ across rationales. Results confirmed that acceptance was effective in manipulating the believability of reason giving, a key process measure. By encouraging individuals to distance themselves from their private events, acceptance methods may help reduce the use of emotional reasons to explain behavior and hence shift concern from moderating thoughts and feelings to experiencing the consequences of one’s action. Acceptance is a promising new technique. Its effect is all the more surprising given that it teaches principles (e.g., “thoughts do not cause behavior”) that run counter both to the popular culture and to the dominant approaches within empirical clinical intervention.

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Correspondence to Steven C. Hayes.

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Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Health, National Institute on Drug, Abuse, Grant Number DA08634.

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Hayes, S.C., Bissett, R.T., Korn, Z. et al. The Impact of Acceptance Versus Control Rationales on Pain Tolerance. Psychol Rec 49, 33–47 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03395305

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