Using a primary task paradigm this study investigated whether attentional disruption to a low-intensity electrocutaneous pain stimulus is enhanced by the threat of intense pain. Healthy volunteers (n = 38) performed a tone discrimination task in the presence of two types of distractors (a low-intensity electrocutaneous stimulus and a control stimulus) which they were instructed to ignore. In some trials, tone probes were presented immediately (250 ms) after distractor onset, further on (750 ms) during the distractor, and immediately (250 ms) after distractor offset. In a threat condition half of the participants were informed that a high-intensity painful stimulus would occur. As predicted, those participants who received the threat instructions, displayed a specific larger disruption of task performance immediately after the onset of the low-intensity pain stimulus in comparison with the control group. The results are discussed in terms of hypervigilance to pain.
Crombez, G., Eccleston, C., Baeyens, F., & Eelen, P. (1998). Attentional disruption is enhanced by the threat of pain. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36(2), 195-204. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0005-7967(97)10008-0