DO BELIEFS ABOUT RACE DIFFERENCES IN PAIN CONTRIBUTE TO ACTUAL RACE DIFFERENCES IN EXPERIMENTAL PAIN RESPONSE?

2019-01-17T14:29:44Z (GMT) by Lauren Mehok

Chronic pain is a costly health problem that affects more than 100 million people in the United States. Race differences exist in the way that pain is experienced and in how it is treated. Many biopsychosocial factors contribute to race differences in pain tolerance. Beliefs about race differences in pain sensitivity may be one of these factors. Previous research has identified that individuals’ explicit beliefs about their gender group influence their own pain tolerance on a cold pressor task. Explicit beliefs about race and pain sensitivity have also been identified but have yet to be linked to actual pain tolerance. Implicit beliefs about race are well documented; however, little is known about the extent to which individuals hold implicit beliefs about race differences in pain sensitivity or whether these beliefs contribute to actual race differences in pain. My thesis examined explicit and implicit beliefs about race and pain and explored whether these beliefs moderated race differences in pain tolerance. I found that White participants had a higher pain tolerance than Black participants on the cold pressor task, U=1165.50, p<.01. Participants held the explicit, t(131)=-6.83, p<.01, and implicit, t(131)=6.35, p<.01, belief that White people are more pain sensitive than Black people. Both explicit, b=-0.37, p=.71, and implicit, b=-21.87, p=.65, beliefs failed to moderate the relationship between race and pain tolerance. Further exploration indicated that participants’ comparisons of their own pain sensitivity to that of their race group moderated the relationship between race and pain tolerance, ⍵=4.40, p=.04. These results provide further insight into race differences in pain tolerance. Researchers may consider examining explicit and implicit beliefs about race differences in pain in health care providers to better understand disparities in pain related recommendations.

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