SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Background

Emerging research suggests that perceiving injustice can compound the suffering of chronic pain, while perceiving justice serves as a positive psychological resource in this context. However, little more is currently known about the function of justice beliefs, particularly in the context of acute pain. The present study undertook this investigation, using cold pressor methodology to investigate whether trusting in the fairness of the world would help someone to cope with short-term pain.

Methods

Sixty-five men and 65 women completed measures of personal and general just world beliefs and state anxiety before pain induction and measures of the intensity and quality of pain, in addition to state anxiety following pain induction.

Results

The personal and general beliefs in a just world were negatively correlated with pre-task anxiety but not with measures of pain induction (threshold, tolerance and sensitivity) or measures of post-task pain. Gender had a moderating role, whereby men with a stronger general just world belief reported lower post-task state anxiety and men who had a stronger personal just world belief reported lower pain intensity. However, unexpectedly, women with a stronger personal just world belief reported higher pain intensity.

Conclusion

The observed gender differences may be attributed to gender variations in cognitive appraisals of the task. Overall, while perceived injustice may be undesirable and a potential target for intervention, perceived justice is not necessarily a desired cognition in pain. Research is needed to replicate and extend this emerging research.