Attentional bias towards pain-related information diminishes the efficacy of distraction

Dimitri M. L. Van Ryckeghem*, Geert Crombez, Lore Van Hulle, Stefaan Van Damme

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Distraction is a strategy that is commonly used to cope with pain. Results concerning the efficacy of distraction from both experimental and clinical studies are variable, however, and indicate that its efficacy may depend on particular circumstances. Several models propose that distraction may be less effective for people who display a large attentional bias towards pain-related information. This hypothesis was tested in an experimental context with 53 pain-free volunteers. First, attentional bias towards cues signalling the occurrence of pain (electrocutaneous stimuli) and towards words describing the sensory experience of this painful stimulus was independently assessed by means of 2 behavioural paradigms (respectively, spatial cueing task and dot-probe task). This was followed by a subsequent distraction task during which the efficacy of distraction, by directing attention away from the electrocutaneous stimuli, was tested. In addition, state-trait anxiety, catastrophic thinking, and initial pain intensity were measured. Results indicated that people who display a large attentional bias towards predictive cues of pain or who initially experience the pain as more painful benefit less from distraction on a subsequent test. No effects were found between attentional bias towards pain words, state-trait anxiety, catastrophic thinking, and the efficacy of distraction. Current findings suggest that distraction should not be used as a 'one size fits all' method to control pain, but only under more specific conditions. (c) 2012 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2345-2351
Number of pages7
JournalPain
Volume153
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Attentional bias
  • Distraction
  • Pain
  • DOT-PROBE EVALUATION
  • CATASTROPHIC THINKING
  • MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN
  • SELECTIVE ATTENTION
  • THREAT-EXPECTANCY
  • COPING STRATEGIES
  • SPATIAL ATTENTION
  • FEAR-AVOIDANCE
  • STIMULI
  • TASK

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