The efficacy of three cognitive strategies for coping with pain was examined in a cold-water pressor task in a sample of college students. Subjects were pretested and then randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions (Paradoxical Intention, Rational Self-statement, or Self-observation) or to an expectancy control group. Following training in the respective cognitive strategies, all groups were given a posttest in the cold-water pressor to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. Pain thresholds, tolerances, and discomfort ratings were recorded for subjects in each condition. No differences were found between the Paradoxical Intention or Rational Self-statement groups and the Expectancy Control on any of the pain measures. The Self-observation treatment condition, however, had significantly higher pain tolerance scores than the Expectancy Control group. The findings were attributed to the subjects' dissociating the sensory aspects of the pain experience from the anxiety when focusing upon the coldness and wetness of the cold water.
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