What we gain from pain: Exploring the benefits of physical pain


Wednesday, 15 August, 2012 - 16:00


Room 1016, Mathews Building


School of Psychology

Type of event: 


Presenter: Dr Brock Bastian

Institution: University of Queensland


One of the most apparent qualities of pain is its sheer aversiveness. For this reason there is a strong focus on reducing or eradicating pain. Although clearly warranted, this approach to understanding pain has overshadowed an appreciation of its other qualities. Beyond being chronic, overwhelming or debilitating, pain also regularly occurs in the absence of illness, injury or harm and may be moderate, challenging and rewarding. It is this kind of pain that people often seek out in common activities such as intense exercise, extreme sports, therapeutic practice, or even eating chilli, and which may be apparent within social ritual and religious or sexual practice. I will present some recent research which aims to uncover the various ‘pay-offs’ that may arise from engaging with pain. Using experimental methods within the laboratory my colleagues and I have found that pain may reduce guilt, may increase self-reward, and may serve to engage and amplify our sensory experience of the world around us. I will discuss how these findings may begin to provide novel insights into apparently irrational behaviour, and may broaden and complicate our common conceptions of physical pain.