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Updating beliefs about pain following advice: Trustworthiness of social advice predicts pain expectations and experience

Krahé, C, Koukoutsakis, A and Fotopoulou, A (2024) Updating beliefs about pain following advice: Trustworthiness of social advice predicts pain expectations and experience. Cognition, 246. pp. 1-15. ISSN 0010-0277

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Prior expectations influence pain experience. These expectations, in turn, rely on prior pain experience, but they may also be socially influenced. Yet, most research has focused on self rather than social expectations about pain, and hardly any studies examine their combined effects on pain. Here, we adopted a Bayesian learning perspective to investigate how explicitly communicated social expectations (‘advice about pain tolerance’) affect own pain expectations, and ultimately pain tolerance, under varying conditions of social epistemic uncertainty (trustworthiness of the advice). N = 72 female participants took part in a coldpressor (cold water) task before (self-learning baseline) and after (socially-influenced learning) receiving advice about their likely pain tolerance from a confederate, the trustworthiness of whom was experimentally manipulated. We used path analysis to test the hypothesis that social advice from a highly trustworthy confederate would influence own expectations about pain more than advice from a less trustworthy source, and that the degree of this social influence would in turn predict pain tolerance. We further used a simplified, Bayesian learning, computational approach for explicit belief updating to examine the role of latent parameters of precision optimisation in how participants subsequently changed their future pain expectations (prospective posterior beliefs) based on the combined effect of the confederate’s advice on their own pain expectations, and their own task experience. Results confirmed that participants adjusted their pain expectations towards the confederate’s advice more in the high vs. low trustworthiness condition, and this advice taking predicted their pain tolerance. Furthermore, the confederate’s trustworthiness influenced how participants weighted the confederate’s advice in relation to their own expectations and task experience in forming prospective posterior beliefs. When participants received advice from a less trustworthy confederate, their own sensory experience was weighted higher than their socially-influenced prior expectations. Thus, explicit social advice appears to impact pain by influencing one’s own pain expectations, but low social trustworthiness leads to these expectations becoming more malleable to novel, sensory learning.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 08 Information and Computing Sciences; 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences; 20 Language, Communication and Culture; Experimental Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Psychology (from Sep 2019)
Publisher: Elsevier
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2024 09:51
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2024 11:30
DOI or ID number: 10.1016/j.cognition.2024.105756
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/22675
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