The psychological behaviorism theory of pain: A basis for unity

P. S. Staats, H. Hekmat, A. W. Staats

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Pain is complex and is thus studied on various levels, ranging from the biological to the social A theory of pain, such as the psychological behaviorism theory of pain, must have multiple levels if it is to be general and unified. The present theory of pain begins on (1) the basic biological level of study and advances level by level through (2) the study of how pain can be learned, (3) the manner in which pain effects 'pain' behaviors, (4) the way that cognition effects pain, (5) the principles by which emotions and emotional states play their roles, (6) how personality variables work their effects, as well as (7) the way in which the social environment affects the individual with pain. The principles of the later levels are derived from the earlier levels. Since the principles and concepts that are developed are empirically defined, the result is a heuristic theory that has empirical implications for both basic and treatment studies, as has been shown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-207
Number of pages14
JournalPain Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 1996


  • Pain
  • Placebo
  • Psychological
  • Theory
  • Unified

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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