Effects of attentional focusing on pain perception

Britton W. Brewer, Paul Karoly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Two experiments were conducted to examine the hypothesized differential effectiveness of two attentional focusing strategies in pain perception. In the first experiment, subjects (72 male college students) rated their levels of pain after being exposed to either low- or high-intensity pressure stimulation for 75 s. Subjects were instructed to use either an external or internal focus of attention during the pain induction. Results revealed that external focusing was more effective for coping than internal focusing across both levels of stimulus intensity. The second experiment was a replication of the first, and featured bolstered internal focusing and stimulus intensity manipulations. Results showed that high-intensity stimulation produced higher pain ratings than did low-intensity stimulation for subjects in the internal focusing conditions, but not for those in the external focusing conditions. The findings support the power of distraction strategies for dealing with short-term pain with a rapid onset. Theoretical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-203
Number of pages11
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of attentional focusing on pain perception'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this