Does social pain really hurt
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Does Social Pain Really Hurt?. Social and Physical Pain. Physical Pain “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.”. Social Pain

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Does Social Pain Really Hurt?

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Does social pain really hurt

Does Social Pain Really Hurt?

Social and physical pain

Social and Physical Pain

  • Physical Pain

    • “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.”

  • Social Pain

    • “distressing experience arising from the perception of actual or potential psychological distance from close others or a social group.”

Physiological connections

Physiological Connections

  • Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC)

  • Periaqueductal Gray (PAG)

  • Opioids

  • Oxytocin

Anterior cinculate cortex acc

Anterior Cinculate Cortex (ACC)

  • Most Direct Evidence

  • Pain affect associated with activation…

    • Physical

    • Social Rejection

Hypnotic suggestion

Hypnotic Suggestion

  • Physical Pain Experiments

    • PET Scans

Social exclusion

Social Exclusion

  • fMRI Scan Experiment

Periaqueductal gray pag

Periaqueductal Gray (PAG)

  • Shown to be active…

    • Injury Detection

    • Bonding Behavior

Injury detection

Injury Detection

  • Experiments with rat pups and physical pain.

Bonding behavior

Bonding Behavior

  • Maternal behavior in rat mothers

    • Kyphosis

    • Nest transport

    • Defense of pups



  • Important pain regulator

  • Signals adequacy of social conditions

Pain regulation

Pain Regulation

  • Long known to ease pain

Signaling adequacy of social conditions

Signaling Adequacy of Social Conditions

  • Animal Research: rats and other animals…

    • Reduce separation Anxiety from isolation of pups



  • Wide range of social behaviors

  • Regulation of physical pain

Wide range of social behaviors

Wide Range of Social Behaviors

Maternal Behavior

  • Aggression

    • Prairie Vole

    • Mountain Vole

Argued for pain regulation

Argued for pain regulation

  • Thermal Stimuli

    • Rats response

Social connectedness

Social Connectedness

  • May only be possible for mammalian species:

    • Extended maternal care

    • Behaviors and Neural structures unique to mammals

Reptilian ancestors

Reptilian Ancestors

  • Two Behavioral Characteristics separating mammals from their reptilian ancestors :

    • Vocal communication

    • Nursing young

Importance of vocalization

Importance of Vocalization

  • Cingulate Gyrus :

    • Role in distress vocalization

    • Ablation of cingulate gyrus

    • Rat Pup Survival Rate – 12%

Benefits of sociality

Benefits of Sociality

  • Protection from environmental extremes

  • Antipredation

  • Feeding Efficiency

  • Population Stability

  • Division of labor

  • Resource Defense

Social pain in human species

Social pain in Human Species

  • Self Esteem

    • measure of how extensively an individual is included or excluded by others

    • Increasing rejection correlates with reduction in self esteem

    • Cyberball

Causes of social pain

Causes of Social Pain

  • Exclusion

  • Relational Devaluation

  • Result: hurt feelings

Advantages of social pain

Advantages of Social Pain

  • Aversive stimuli leads to avoidance

  • - pain of isolation will motivate individual to reestablish relationships

  • - negative experience with a specific environment will lead to avoidance of environments with these conditions.

Overlap in physical and emotional pain

Overlap in physical and emotional pain

  • Cingulotomy

    • Procedure

      • Lesioning of ACC for treatment of chronic pain

  • Collateral Effects:

    • Patients able to feel the pain, but it no longer bothers them.

Overlap in physical and emotional pain1

Overlap in physical and emotional pain

  • Opiate Based drugs

  • - Original function:

  • - Alleviating physical pain

  • - Morphine

  • - Collateral Effects:

  • - lessen social pain in animals and humans

  • - Narcotics

  • - Opium

  • - Heroin

Overlap in physical and emotional pain2

Overlap in physical and emotional pain

  • Social Support

  • -cancer

  • -childbirth

  • -cardiac pain

  • -chronic pain

  • -post operative pain

Overlap in physical and emotional pain3

Overlap in physical and emotional pain

  • Antidepressants

  • - Original function:

  • - reducing feelings of anxiety or depression

  • - Collateral Effects:

  • - alleviate physical pain

  • - now prescribed to treat chronic pain

Deep questions


  • Developmental:Does an organism’s stage of life have an effect on their ability to sense social pain? Would a person’s sense of social rejection be different if past experiences had been more or less intense in the context of past rejection?

  • Ecological:How does an environment, rich in social support, aid an individual to relieve physical and/or social pain? Is being rejected from a group enough of an environmental stimulus to evoke a strong enough social pain response for an individual to seek out a group in which it is socially accepted?

Deep questions1


Evolutionary:How did the mechanisms for physical pain and the mechanisms for social pain develop independently, but work cooperatively? How does the development of maternal care in modern mammalian species act as an adaptation from their reptilian ancestors? How did these adaptations increase fitness among mammals?

Physiological:How similar is the neural mechanism for social pain to the neural mechanism for physical pain? Do similar hormones get released throughout the body in response to physical and emotional pain?

Works cited

Works Cited

Leary, Mark R., and Geoff MacDonald. "Why Does Social Exclusion Hurt? The Relationship Between Social and Physical Pain.." Psychological Bulletin 131(2005): 202-223. Retrieved on 11/05/07 from <>.

Works cited1

Works Cited

Eisenberger, Naomi I. and Matthew D. Lieberman. "Why Rejection Hurts: A Common Neural Alarm System for Physical and Social Pain." Science Direct 2004 1-17. Retrieved on 10/28/07 from <>.

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