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Pain. 2002 Jul;98(1-2):135-44.

Detecting deception in pain expressions: the structure of genuine and deceptive facial displays.

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Arthritis Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital, 268 Grosvenor St, P.O. Box 5777, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 4V2.


Clinicians tend to assign greater weight to non-verbal expression than to patients' self-report when judging the location and severity of pain. Judgments can misrepresent the actual experience because patients can successfully alter their pain expressions. The present research provides a basis for discriminating genuine and deceptive pain expressions by expanding detailed accounts of facial expressions to include previously unexamined variables, including study of temporal patterns and contiguity of facial actions as well as the occurrence of specific deception cues. Low back patients' facial expressions (n=40) were videotaped at rest and while undergoing a painful straight leg raise with instructions to: (1) genuinely express their pain, or (2) pretend that it did not hurt. As well, they were asked to fake pain without moving. The Facial Action Coding System was used to describe and quantify facial activity. The different types of expression were compared on the frequency, type, intensity, temporal pattern and contiguity of facial actions, as well as on the frequency of specific deception cues. Findings confirmed the difficulty of discriminating the facial expressions, but indicated that faked pain expressions show a greater number of pain-related and non-pain-related actions, have a longer peak intensity and overall duration, and the facial actions observed tend to be less temporally contiguous than are those in genuine pain expressions. The differences between masked pain and neutral expressions were subtle, with a greater frequency of mouth opening and residual eyebrow movement in masked pain expressions. Thus, there is an empirical basis for discriminating genuine and deceptive facial displays.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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