Learning about pain through observation: The role of pain-related fear

Zina Trost, Christopher R. France, Tine Vervoort, Jane M. Lange, Liesbet Goubert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Observational learning may contribute to development and maintenance of pain-related beliefs and behaviors. The current study examined whether observation of video primes could impact appraisals of potential back stressing activities, and whether this relationship was moderated by individual differences in pain-related fear. Participants viewed a video prime in which back-stressing activity was associated with pain and injury. Both before and after viewing the prime, participants provided pain and harm ratings of standardized movements drawn from the Photograph of Daily Activities Scale (PHODA). Results indicated that observational learning occurred for participants with high levels of pain-related fear but not for low fear participants. Specifically, following prime exposure, high fear participants showed elevated pain appraisals of activity images whereas low fear participants did not. High fear participants appraised the PHODA-M images as significantly more harmful regardless of prime exposure. The findings highlight individual moderators of observational learning in the context of pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-265
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Learning
  • Observation
  • Pain appraisal
  • Pain-related fear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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