Sex Roles

, Volume 47, Issue 11–12, pp 561–568 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Pain Perception: The Mediating Role of Self-Efficacy Beliefs

  • Todd Jackson
  • Tony Iezzi
  • Jennifer Gunderson
  • Takeo Nagasaka
  • April Fritch


The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which the gender differences in response to the cold pressor test (CPT) are mediated by self-efficacy beliefs. One hundred twelve college undergraduates (69 women and 43 men) engaged in CPT and completed self-report measures of demographic information, physical self-efficacy (i.e., expectations about one's overall physical capabilities), and task-specific self-efficacy (i.e., beliefs about one's ability to cope successfully with the upcoming CPT). In addition, participants provided subjective ratings of pain intensity every 30 s during CPT and were evaluated for tolerance during CPT (up to 4 min). Consistent with past research, men reported lower average subjective ratings of pain intensity and showed higher tolerance for CPT. Path analyses indicated that associations between gender and pain perception were fully mediated by self-efficacy beliefs. Men reported greater physical self-efficacy and task-specific self-efficacy than women did. In turn, higher task-specific self-efficacy ratings predicted increases in tolerance for pain and lower ratings of average pain intensity. Findings indicate that self-efficacy beliefs are one factor that accounts for gender differences in responses to painful stimulation. Future researchers should evaluate conditions under which heightened self-efficacy may be beneficial and harmful, and they should employ experimental designs that incorporate opportunities for use of both communal–interpersonal and individualistic coping strategies in light of possible gender differences in preferred approaches to coping with pain.

gender self-efficacy pain perception 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd Jackson
    • 1
  • Tony Iezzi
    • 2
  • Jennifer Gunderson
    • 1
  • Takeo Nagasaka
    • 1
  • April Fritch
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of Wisconsin–SuperiorSuperior
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentLondon Health Sciences CentreLondonCanada

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