Competition, Cooperation, and Pain Sensitivity

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Title: Competition, Cooperation, and Pain Sensitivity
Author: Xiang, William W.
Advisor: Sternberg, Wendy
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Psychology
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: Pain is often associated with athletic competition. Studies have shown that competition produced an analgesic effect in male and female athletes. However, analgesic effects in athletes and non-athletes in different levels of competition have not yet been systematically investigated. This experiment evaluated pain sensitivity on several different measures in athletes and non-athletes before and after participating in one of four conditions: completing a puzzle, cycling on a stationary bicycle alone, cooperatively cycling alongside a confederate, or competitively cycling alongside a confederate. The study did not find significant results regarding different levels of competition and analgesia. Although no significant results were found, some interesting patterns were observed with the gender-specific cooperative condition. Women in the cooperative condition demonstrated increase in pain sensitivity, unlike results found in previous studies on exercise and competition. Possible reasons for this increase in pain sensitivity could be due to personality trait differences in cooperation compared to competition or participants empathizing for his or her partner's physical pain while cycling. Our findings suggest that the nature of cooperation causes different analgesic responses from interpersonal competition.
Subject: Pain -- Psychological aspects
Subject: Competition (Psychology) -- Sex differences
Subject: Cooperativeness -- Psychological aspects
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Xiang, William W.. "Competition, Cooperation, and Pain Sensitivity". 2012. Available electronically from

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