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Pain. 2006 Sep;124(1-2):109-16. Epub 2006 May 23.

Testing two accounts of pain underestimation.

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Eberhard Karls Universitaet Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany.


Two important influences on pain underestimation by health care professionals were investigated by varying specific cues with reference to underestimation of patients' pain: when observers are not allowed to talk to patients and when observers expect social cheating. One hundred and twenty health care professionals watched videotaped facial expressions of pain patients and estimated their pain. The first group only saw the faces, the second group was given patients' self-reports in addition and the last group was given a context cue priming them to expect cheating in addition to faces and patients' ratings. Health care professionals generally underestimated patients' pain, but this varied depending on the cues given. Those viewing the face without patients' ratings underestimated pain to a greater extent than health care professionals provided with patients' ratings. Health care professionals primed to expect cheating underestimated pain as much as those seeing only patients' faces. Therefore, both accounts, verbal report as important but missing cue as well as an alerted cheating detection device, could account for underestimation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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