An experimental investigation of the role of perceived justice in acute pain
Article first published online: 23 AUG 2012
© 2012 European Federation of International Association for the Study of Pain Chapters
European Journal of Pain
Volume 17, Issue 3, pages 412–422, March 2013
How to Cite
McParland, J., Knussen, C., Lawrie, J. and Brodie, E. (2013), An experimental investigation of the role of perceived justice in acute pain. European Journal of Pain, 17: 412–422. doi: 10.1002/j.1532-2149.2012.00201.x
This research was funded by The British Academy (Reference SG090788).
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest associated with this manuscript.
- Issue published online: 6 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 23 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 3 JUL 2012
- The British Academy. Grant Number: SG090788
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.
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.
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.
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.