Competition, Cooperation, and Pain Sensitivity

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Title: Competition, Cooperation, and Pain Sensitivity
Author: Selsor, Margaret
Advisor: Sternberg, Wendy
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Psychology
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: Prior research has shown how competition and exercise increase pain tolerance. However, the specific effects of cooperation in competition on pain sensitivity have not been thoroughly examined. In our study, we had 80 subjects (40 males, 40 females; 40 athletes, 40 non-athletes) randomly assigned to one of four conditions: a control task, biking in isolation, biking cooperatively with a confederate, and biking competitively against a confederate, and they completed pre- and post-test pain measures (cold pressor test, thermal scaling, and thermal pain threshold). We had three main hypotheses: (I) subjects in the competitive condition will elicit the greatest analgesic response (followed by cooperative, isolated, and control), (2) athletes will have higher pain tolerances, a greater analgesic response to the exercise conditions, and a larger rate of RPE, and (3) females will have a greater analgesic response to the exercise condition, and males would have a greater pain tolerance overall. Although most of our hypotheses were not supported, we discuss the implications and ideas for future research.
Subject: Cooperativeness -- Psychological aspects
Subject: Competition (Psychology) -- Sex differences
Subject: Pain -- Physiological aspects
Subject: Pain -- Psychological aspects
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Selsor, Margaret. "Competition, Cooperation, and Pain Sensitivity". 2012. Available electronically from

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