Sticks and stones: A new study on social and physical pain

Aug 27, 2008

We all know the famous saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," but is this proverb actually true?

According to some researchers, words may pack a harder punch that we realize. Psychologists Zhansheng Chen and Kipling D. Williams of Purdue University, Julie Fitness of Macquarie University, and Nicola C. Newton of the University of New South Wales found that the pain of physical events may fade with time, while the pain of social occurrences can be re-instantiated through memory retrievals.

The researchers set up four experiments to demonstrate this finding. In the first two experiments, participants reported the amount of pain they felt while trying to relive a physically or a socially painful experience. After writing detailed accounts of each experience, the participants reported how they felt.

The last two experiments were similar to the first two, except participants were asked to work on some cognitive tasks with different levels of difficulty after reliving a socially or physically painful event.

The results, published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, are clear. Participants who had to recall a socially painful experience reported stronger feelings of pain and relived the experience more intensely than those who had to recall a physically painful event. Furthermore, participants who only had to recall a physically painful event performed better on the difficult mental tasks in comparison to those who had to relive a socially painful event.

A possible explanation for these results could be the evolution of the human brain, specifically in an area called the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for complex thinking, perception and language processing.

"The evolution of the cerebral cortex certainly improved the ability of human beings to create and adapt; to function in and with groups, communities, and culture; and to respond to pain associated with social interactions," the authors wrote. "However, the cerebral cortex may also have had an unintended effect of allowing humans to relive, re-experience, and suffer from social pain."

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Explore further: Religious music brings benefit to seniors' mental health

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Countering the caregiver placebo effect

Mar 12, 2014

How do you know that your pet is benefiting from its pain medication? A new clinical trial design from North Carolina State University researchers could help overcome pet owners' unconscious observation bias ...

Restorative justice helps victims, cuts crime

Feb 14, 2014

A major new international study has backed pioneering work by The Australian National University (ANU) into restorative justice, finding criminals are less likely to re-offend after meeting their victims ...

Arab bloggers aim to boost cyberactivism

Jan 20, 2014

Arab bloggers on Monday discussed ways to boost cyberactivism at a meeting in the Jordanian capital, faced with new challenges three years after the start of Internet-fuelled revolts in their region.

Smart hydrogels deliver medicine on demand

Jan 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers at the University of Delaware have developed a "smart" hydrogel that can deliver medicine on demand, in response to mechanical force.

Recommended for you

Religious music brings benefit to seniors' mental health

Apr 18, 2014

A new article published online in The Gerontologist reports that among older Christians, listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in anxiety about death and increases in life satisfaction, self-e ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

shortdwarfcom
not rated yet Aug 30, 2008
once again, a story that gives credence to the belief that you shouldn't call a dwarf talent from http://shortdwarf.com a midget talent! :-)

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.