The Nexus of Pain
Kenneth M. Prkachin
University of Northern British Columbia

Understanding pain and its role in human functioning requires analysis at biological, cognitive, affective, behavioural and social levels. This presentation will outline concepts and findings from a program of research focused on a key pain phenomenon—behavioural expression. Pain expression can be conceived productively as a nexus, connecting basic determinants of pain to the social world in which it is broadcast and by which it is regulated, in part. The nexus model helps to frame questions about how pain can be inferred, what kinds of intrapersonal experiences influence it, how it regulates interpersonal interaction and the nature of the social forces it stimulates. The specific properties of pain signals will be described as will be recent technological developments that provide insight into their dynamic properties. Studies addressing the ways in which others respond to evidence of suffering will also be reviewed, including recent work on clinical “underestimation bias” and empathy.