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Computer-delivered social norm message increases pain tolerance.

  • Author(s): Pulvers, Kim;
  • Schroeder, Jacquelyn;
  • Limas, Eleuterio F;
  • Zhu, Shu-Hong
  • et al.

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Few experimental studies have been conducted on social determinants of pain tolerance.


This study tests a brief, computer-delivered social norm message for increasing pain tolerance.


Healthy young adults (N = 260; 44 % Caucasian; 27 % Hispanic) were randomly assigned into a 2 (social norm) × 2 (challenge) cold pressor study, stratified by gender. They received standard instructions or standard instructions plus a message that contained artificially elevated information about typical performance of others.


Those receiving a social norm message displayed significantly higher pain tolerance, F(1, 255) = 26.95, p < .001, η p (2)  = .10 and pain threshold F(1, 244) = 9.81, p = .002, η p (2)  = .04, but comparable pain intensity, p > .05. There were no interactions between condition and gender on any outcome variables, p > .05.


Social norms can significantly increase pain tolerance, even with a brief verbal message delivered by a video.

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