Attentional biases towards body expressions of pain in men and women

Edmund Keogh, Nina Attridge, Joseph Walsh, Jessica Bartlett, Rachel Francis , Janet Bultitude, Christopher Eccleston

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4 Citations (SciVal)
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This study investigated whether there are gender differences in attention to bodily expressions of pain and core emotions. Three experiments are reported using the attentional dot probe task. Images of men and women displaying bodily expressions, including pain, were presented. The task was used to determine whether participants’ attention was drawn towards or away from target expressions. Inconsistent evidence was found for an attentional bias towards body expressions, including pain. While biases were affected by gender, patterns varied across the Experiments. Experiment 1, which had a presentation duration of 500 ms, found a relative bias towards the location of male body expressions compared to female expressions. Experiments 2 and 3 varied stimulus exposure times by including both shorter and longer duration conditions (e.g., 100 vs. 500 vs. 1250 ms). In these experiments, a bias towards pain was confirmed. Gender differences were also found, especially in the longer presentation conditions. Expressive body postures captured the attention of women for longer compared to men. These results are discussed in light of their implications for why there are gender differences in attention to pain, and what impact this has on pain behaviour. Perspective: We show that men and women might differ in how they direct their attention towards bodily expressions, including pain. These results have relevance to understanding how carers might attend to the pain of others, as well as highlighting the wider role that social-contextual factors have in pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1696-1708
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number12
Early online date23 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021


  • Attention
  • Body
  • Gender
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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