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Perceived Control and Distraction in the Cold-Pressor Test
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by Michael Bennett and Larry Boehm* - Thomas More College
Categories: Physiological | Social
The cold-pressor test was used to evaluate the effectiveness of perceived personal control in the reduction of pain ratings. Forty-seven college students were divided into three groups. Participants in the perceived-control group were subjected to the cold-pressor test and were led to believe they could control the temperature of the water. Participants then rated the pain they experienced on a scale of 1-20. Their results were compared to a group using a distraction task (letter shadowing) and a traditional control group. Pain ratings for both the perceived-control and the distraction conditions were significantly (p < .05) lower than the control group. The mechanism for this reduction in pain intensity may be the stress-reducing properties of perceived control and its mediation of stress in the pain experience.