An investigation of the effect of experimental pain on logical reasoning

Nina Fay Attridge, Edmund Keogh, Christopher Eccleston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pain disrupts attention to prioritise avoidance of harm and promote analgesic behaviour. This could in turn have negative effects on higher-level cognitions, which rely on attention. In the current article, we examined the effect of thermal pain induction on 3 measures of reasoning: the Cognitive Reflection Test, Belief Bias Syllogisms task, and Conditional Inference task. In experiment 1, the thermal pain was set at each participant's pain threshold. In experiment 2, it was set to a minimum of 44°C or 7/10 on a visual analogue scale (whichever was higher). In experiment 3, performance was compared in no pain, low-intensity pain, and high-intensity pain conditions. We predicted that the experience of pain would reduce correct responding on the reasoning tasks. However, this was not supported in any of the 3 studies. We discuss possible interpretations of our failure to reject the null hypothesis and the importance of publishing null results.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1102
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • pain
  • cognition
  • reasoning
  • logic
  • disruption
  • executive function
  • cognitive intrusion

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