The psychological behaviorism theory of pain and the placebo: Its principles and results of research application

Peter S. Staats, Hamid Hekmat, Arthur W. Staats

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

The psychological behaviorism theory of pain unifies biological, behavioral, and cognitive-behavioral theories of pain and facilitates development of a common vocabulary for pain research across disciplines. Pain investigation proceeds in seven interacting realms: basic biology, conditioned learning, language cognition, personality differences, pain behavior, the social environment, and emotions. Because pain is an emotional response, examining the bidirectional impact of emotion is pivotal to understanding pain. Emotion influences each of the other areas of interest and causes the impact of each factor to amplify or diminish in an additive fashion. Research based on this theory of pain has revealed the ameliorating impact on pain of (1) improving mood by engaging in pleasant sexual fantasies, (2) reducing anxiety, and (3) reducing anger through various techniques. Application of the theory to therapy improved the results of treatment of osteoarthritic pain. The psychological behaviorism theory of the placebo considers the placebo a stimulus conditioned to elicit a positive emotional response. This response is most powerful if it is elicited by conditioned language. Research based on this theory of the placebo that pain is ameliorated by a placebo suggestion and augmented by a nocebo suggestion and that pain sensitivity and pain anxiety increase susceptibility to a placebo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in psychosomatic medicine
Volume25
DOIs
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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