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Pain Med. 2017 Jan 1;18(1):49-60. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnw123.

Influence of Catastrophizing and Personality Traits on Recalled Ratings of Acute Pain Experience in Healthy Young Adults.

Author information

Division of Physiology, Department of Basic Sciences, Faculty of Dental Sciences, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.
Lehrstuhl Für Neurophysiologie, Medizinische Fakultät Mannheim, Universität Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany.



To investigate whether pain catastrophizing and personality traits bias recalled ratings of acute pain in an experimental tonic pain model.

Subjects and Setting:

Fifty-six undergraduates (14 males) recruited from the University of Peradeniya (mean age 21.7 ± 0.8 SD years).

Design and Methods:

Participants completed the Pain Catastrophizing Scale and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. They were subjected to two cold pressor tests (dominant and non-dominant hands) and pain threshold, maximum pain intensity, and pain tolerance were recorded. One-week later, the maximum pain intensities of both hands were recalled and percentage distortions in recalling were calculated. Based on a 180 s cutoff, two participants were considered pain-insensitive during the test and were excluded from the analysis.


The maximum pain intensity was recalled with a moderate accuracy (Intraclass Correlation Coefficients = 0.68 for dominant and 0.59 for non-dominant hands). Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that maximum pain intensity ( P  < 0.001) and pain catastrophizing ( P  < 0.001) contributed significantly to recalled pain intensity, and only pain catastrophizing contributed significantly ( P  < 0.001) to percentage distortion in recalling with positive β-coefficients. Participants who consistently overrated pain for both hands in recalling scored significantly higher on catastrophizing ( P  < 0.001).


This study demonstrated that memory for painful events in healthy subjects was reasonably accurate over a period of 1 week. Pain catastrophizing biased pain recall, whereas among personality traits only neuroticism exhibited a weak positive association with the recalled ratings.


Acute Pain; Catastrophizing; Cold Pressor Test; Experimental Pain; Pain Memory; Personality Traits

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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