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Pain Research and Treatment
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 128093, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/128093
Research Article

Smiling in Pain: Explorations of Its Social Motives

1Department of Psychology, Physiological Psychology, Otto-Friedrich University Bamberg, Markusplatz 3, 96045 Bamberg, Germany
2Department of Psychology, Health Psychology, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way Prince George, BC, Canada V2N 4Z9

Received 21 March 2013; Accepted 7 July 2013

Academic Editor: Ke Ren

Copyright © 2013 Miriam Kunz et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Studies of facial responses during experimental and clinical pain have revealed a surprising phenomenon, namely, that a considerable number of individuals respond with a smile. So far, it is not known why smiling occurs during pain. It is possible that the “smile of pain” is socially motivated (e.g., reinforcing social bonds while undergoing an unpleasant experience). The present studies were conducted in an attempt to address the role of social motives in smiling during pain. In two studies, we varied the quantitative (level of sociality) and qualitative (properties of the relationship between interactants) components of the situations in which participants received painful stimulation. Participants’ faces were video-recorded and the occurrence of smiling was assessed. The occurrence of smiling differed depending on stimulus intensity and the properties of the relationship between interactants. Smiling occurred more often during the painful compared to nonpainful stimulation. Whereas the presence of a stranger (experimenter) reduced the smiling behavior, the presence of an intimate other increased it. Slight variations in the level of sociality, however, had no effect on the degree of smiling. Social motives possibly aimed at strengthening social bonds and thus ensuring social support appear to underlie smiling during pain.