Paper in Pain
  • Jones, E.B., Sharpe, L. (2014). The effect of cognitive bias modification for interpretation on avoidance of pain during an acute experimental pain task. Pain, 155 (8) pp. 1569-1576.

    Research confirms that patients with chronic pain show a tendency to interpret ambiguous stimuli as pain related. However, whether modifying these interpretive pain biases impacts pain outcomes is unknown. This study aimed to demonstrate that interpretation biases towards pain can be modified, and that changing these biases influences pain outcomes in the cold pressor task. One hundred and six undergraduate students were randomly allocated to receive either threatening or reassuring information regarding the cold pressor. They also were randomly allocated to 1 of 2 conditions in the Ambiguous Scenarios Task, in which they were trained to have either a threatening interpretation of pain (pain bias condition) or a nonthreatening interpretation of pain (no pain bias condition). Therefore, the study had a 2 (threat/reassuring) × 2 (pain bias/no pain bias) design. Analyses showed that a bias was induced contingent on condition, and that the threat manipulation was effective. Participants in the pain bias condition hesitated more before doing the cold pressor task than those in the no pain bias condition, as did those in the threat compared with the reassurance condition. The major finding was that interpretive bias mediated the relationship between bias condition and hesitance time, supporting the causal role of interpretive biases for avoidance behaviors in current chronic pain models. No differences were found on other pain outcomes regarding bias or threat, and the efficacy of the bias modification was not impacted by different levels of threat. These results suggest that cognitive bias modification should be further explored as a potential intervention in pain.