Selective attentional bias for pain-related stimuli amongst pain fearful individuals

Edmund Keogh, Deborah Ellery, Caroline Hunt, Ian Hannent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

197 Citations (SciVal)


Recent research indicates that people who are fearful of pain tend to report more negative pain experiences. It also seems that attentional mechanisms may be particularly important in the perception of painful stimuli, especially amongst pain fearful individuals. Drawing on a paradigm used to examine biased cognitive processes in the emotional disorders, the current study investigated whether the fear of pain would be related to a greater selective attentional bias in favour of pain-related stimuli. In order to determine the nature of this bias, stimuli material were varied in terms of whether they were related to pain sensations, were related to socially threatening situations or were relatively positive. Those with a high fear of pain exhibited a selective attentional bias towards pain-related information, compared to those classified as low in the fear of pain. No group differences were found for either social threat or positive stimuli. These results indicate that one reason why those with a high fear of pain are particularly susceptible to negative pain experiences could be due to biased attentional processes. Suggestions for cognitive interventions designed to reduce such biases are discussed, as are directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2001


  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive bias
  • Fear
  • Pain
  • Selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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