Pain and attention: Toward a motivational account.

Dimitri van Ryckeghem, Geert Crombez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

33 Downloads (Pure)


This chapter introduces the construct of attention and presents an overview of available cognitive, affective, and motivational accounts that aim to explain how pain affects attention and vice versa. It discusses available research within a motivational framework. The motivational framework offers an explanation for contradictory findings concerning the interplay between attention and pain. The chapter focuses on task interference brought about by pain, often called bottom-up capture of attention and discusses top-down modulation of attention in the context of pain. For top-down modulation, the chapter addresses both the factors that facilitate attention to pain and the factors that reduce attention to pain. It broadens the scope and discusses research on attention to symbolic representations of pain (e.g., pain words and pictures), an often used paradigm to investigate attentional bias for pain-related information in chronic pain patients. Although this line of research stems from a different background, it has attracted substantial empirical efforts. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future research and discusses the clinical implications of a motivational perspective on pain. It guides future researchers toward the goal of unraveling the relationship between attention and pain by examining factors that moderate or mediate that relationship. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMotivational perspectives on chronic pain
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, research, and practice.
EditorsPaul Karoly, Geert Crombez
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)9780190627898
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Attention
  • Chronic Pain
  • Experimentation
  • Motivation
  • Attentional Bias
  • Clinical Practice

Cite this