A Pilot Study on the Effectiveness of a Heat-Pain Stimulus to induce Pain, Anxiety, and Fear

Keywords: Heat-Pain, Pilot Study, Anxiety, Fear, Psychopathy


While the majority of previous studies assessing pain-related variables in psychopaths used electric shocks, little is known about the effectiveness of alternative pain-inducing methods to increase emotional responses such as fear and anxiety. A small sample of healthy undergraduate men (N = 15) was recruited to assess the effectiveness of a heat stimulus to induce pain in an immediate versus delayed punishment paradigm. Although pain catastrophizing, anxiety, and threat of pain did not increase throughout the experiment, participants experienced a significant increase of fear of pain and pain intensity, indicating that the heat stimulus was effective in inducing pain. Furthermore, subjects were slower in initiating the pain stimulus during the first five trials, but no time difference was found during the 15 remaining trials. No correlation was found between psychopathic traits and pain-related variables, with the exception of inconsistent results within the Fearless Dominance factor. Findings are discussed in terms of improvement for a larger scale study involving psychopathic individuals.