Definition of Pain & Its Role

Some people evidently like pain at least under some, usually sexual, circumstances and are described as masochists. For them, the Definition of pain seems to be different from what it is for most people. Some psychologists believe individuals may come to like pain through classical conditioning, that is, by participating in or viewing activities that associate pain with pleasure.

Most of the evidence for the view that the Definition of pain can change by its association with pleasure comes from research with animals. For example, Ivan Pavlov (1927) demonstrated that the dogs’ negative reaction to aversive stimuli, such as electric shocks or skin pricks, chanced if the stimuli repeatedly preceded presentation of food. Eventually, the dogs would try to approach the aversive stimuli, which now signaled that food, not danger, was coming.

hysician Henry Beecher (1956) described a dramatic example of how the Definition of pain affects people’s experience of it. During World War II, he had examined soldiers who had recently been very seriously wounded and were in a field hospital for treatment. Of these men, only 49% claimed to be in ‘moderate’ or “severe” pain and only 32% requested medication when asked if they “wanted something to relieve it.

Some years later, Beecher conducted a similar examination this time with civilian men who had just undergone surgery. Although the surgical wounds were in the same body regions as those of the soldiers, the soldiers’ wounds had been more extensive. Nevertheless, 75% of the civilians claimed to be in “moderate” or “severe” pain and 83% requested medication.

Why did the soldiers who had more extensive wounds perceive less pain than the civilians? Beecher described the Definition the injuries had for the soldiers, who had been subjected to almost uninterrupted fire for weeks. Notable in this group of soldiers was their optimistic, even cheerful, state of mind…. They thought the war was over for them and that they would soon be well enough to be sent home. It is not difficult to understand their relief on being delivered from this area of danger. The battlefield wound marked the end of disaster for them.

For the civilian surgical patients, however, the wound marked the start of a personal disaster and their condition represented a major disruption in their lives.

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