Shared Pain Brings People Together

Posted on September 12, 2014

Bastian and colleagues Jolanda Jetten and Laura J. Ferris of the University of Queensland examined the link between pain and social bonding in a series of experiments with undergraduate students.

In the first experiment, the researchers randomly assigned 54 students to perform either a painful task or a similar, relatively painless, task in small groups. The students submerged their hand in a bucket of water and were tasked with locating metal balls in the water and placing them into a small underwater container. For some, the water was painfully cold, while for others the water was room temperature.

A second task required the students to either perform an upright wall squat (which is typically painful) or to balance on one leg, with the option of switching legs and using balance aids to avoid fatigue.

The students then rated statements designed to measure how they felt about their group (e.g., "I feel part of this group of participants," "I feel a sense of loyalty to the other participants").

The students who performed the painful tasks and those who performed the painless tasks showed no difference in positive or negative emotion.

They did, however, show significant differences in group bonding: Students who performed the painful tasks reported a greater degree of bonding than did those who performed the pain-free versions, even after the researchers accounted for participant age, gender, and the size of the group.


Category(s):Grief, Loss, Bereavement

Source material from Psychological Science


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