Pain Offset Reduces Rumination

Harmon-Jones, C. (UNSW Sydney), Summerell, E. (UNSW Sydney), Bastian, B. (University of Melbourne)

Past research has demonstrated that, following the offset of pain, individuals show a distinct emotional state of relief involving both reduction in negative affect and an increase in positive affect. This response may help to explain why individuals sometimes seek out pain and discomfort (e.g., vigorous exercise, self-harm), and suggests that following pain, individuals should recover better from negative emotional states. To test this we examined ruminative responses to anger and sadness. These negative, approach-related emotions often produce rumination, a response that is generally considered maladaptive. Four studies used various methods of manipulating pain and then evoking anger or sadness, followed by measures of rumination. The fourth study also included measures of distraction and relief to explore whether these mediated the effect. A mini-meta-analysis showed that, across all studies, individuals engaged in less rumination in the pain conditions as measured by a thought-listing task and a self-reported rumination questionnaire. The discussion focuses on the implications of these results for negative emotion regulation.


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Emotion Regulation