© 2018

Social and Interpersonal Dynamics in Pain

We Don't Suffer Alone

  • Tine Vervoort
  • Kai Karos
  • Zina Trost
  • Kenneth M. Prkachin

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xix
  2. Theoretical Foundations

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Amanda C de C Williams, Judith Kappesser
      Pages 3-22
    3. Kenneth D. Craig
      Pages 23-41
    4. Rebecca Pillai Riddell, Kenneth D. Craig
      Pages 43-55
  3. A Science of Pain Expression

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 77-77
    2. Marc O. Martel, Michael J. L. Sullivan
      Pages 79-99
    3. Miriam Kunz, Kai Karos, Tine Vervoort
      Pages 101-119
  4. The Neuroscience of Interpersonal Pain Dynamics

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 147-147
    2. Marie-Pier B. Tremblay, Aurore Meugnot, Philip L. Jackson
      Pages 149-172
    3. Erinn L. Acland, Navdeep K. Lidhar, Loren J. Martin
      Pages 197-217
  5. Effects of Facing Others in Pain

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 219-219
    2. Kenneth M. Prkachin, M. Erin Browne, Kimberley A. Kaseweter
      Pages 221-240
    3. Lies De Ruddere, Raymond Tait
      Pages 241-269
  6. Observer Responses to Others’ Pain

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 271-271
    2. Shannon M. Clark, Michelle T. Leonard, Annmarie Cano, Bethany Pester
      Pages 273-293
    3. Kaytlin Constantin, Rachel L. Moline, C. Meghan McMurtry
      Pages 295-323

About this book


This groundbreaking analysis moves our knowledge of pain and its effects from the biomedical model to one accounting for its complex psychosocial dimensions. Starting with its facial and physical display, pain is shown in its manifold social contexts—in the lifespan, in a family unit, expressed by a member of a gender and/or race—and as observed by others. These observations by caregivers and family are shown as vital to the social dynamic of pain—as observers react to sufferers’ pain, and as these reactions affect those suffering. The book’s findings should enhance practitioners’ understanding of pain to develop more effective individualized treatments for clients’ pain experience, and inspire researchers as well.

Among the topics covered: 

  • Why do we care? Evolutionary mechanisms in the social dimension of pain.
  • When, how, and why do we express pain?
  • On the overlap between physical and social pain.
  • Facing others in pain: why context matters.
  • Caregiving impact upon sufferers’ cognitive functioning.
  • Targeting individual and interpersonal processes in therapeutic interventions for chronic pain.

Social and Interpersonal Dynamics in Pain will be a valuable resource for clinicians who deal in pain practice and management, as well as for students and researchers interested in the social, interpersonal, and emotional variables that contribute to pain, the processes with which pain is associated, and the psychology of pain in general.


Gate Control Theory of Pain Clinical Experience of Pain Sufferers Evolution of Pain Affective-Motivational Models of Pain Pain Expression Neuroscience of Pain Observer Response in Pain Pain Communication Pain Behavior neuroscience of empathy neonatal care and pain sex differences in pain comparative cognition and pain

Editors and affiliations

  • Tine Vervoort
    • 1
  • Kai Karos
    • 2
  • Zina Trost
    • 3
  • Kenneth M. Prkachin
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Research Group on Health PsychologyKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada

About the editors

Tine Vervoort, PhD, is a Research Professor at the Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium. Dr. Vervoort came to her career as a research psychologist interested in pediatric psychology with a background in psychiatric (child/adolescent) nursing and clinical psychology. Having completed her PhD in clinical psychology on social determinants of child pain expression she has systematically conceptualized the dynamic interaction between children in pain and caregivers in terms that facilitate empirical study of family socialization and social context as determinants of child pain experience. Drawing upon an affective-motivational account of pain, she has developed a theoretically integrative and clinically informative program of research addressing (1) the nature and (social) determinants of child (facial) pain expression/ pain experience; (2) emotion regulatory function of child pain-related attention and behavioral impact; (3) the nature and role of observer emotion regulation in understanding observers' emotional and behavioral responses; and, most recently, (4) the nature and role of parental injustice appraisals in the context of  their child’s pain. Her work has been presented at numerous international congresses and published within internationally peer-reviewed papers. She is likewise the recipient of a number of prestigious national and international awards/grants. She is also the proud mother of 4 boys.

Kai Karos is a PhD student at the Research Group for Health Psychology at the KU Leuven, Belgium. He received his bachelor in psychology from Maastricht University in 2009 and finished the research master in psychopathology at Maastricht University in 2012. His research concerns the effects of threatening interpersonal environments on the experience and expression of pain. Drawing from social, evolutionary, learning and helath psychology, he is interested how interpersonal threat affects facial expression of pain, self-reported pain ratings, learning of pain-related fear, and interpersonal processes such as aggression and empathy. Moreover, he developed a theoretical, motivational framework which outlines how acute and chronic pain challenge several interpersonal human needs such as the need to belong, the need for autonomy, and the need for justice. His work has been presented at several international congresses and published within internationally peer-reviewed papers.

Zina Trost, PhD, received her Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2003 from Fordham University in New York City, where she grew up after her family immigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia in 1991. She received her doctorate in Clinical Health Psychology from Ohio University where she first began to explore her interests in chronic pain and illness, subsequently completing an internship at the University of Washington Medical Center, and postdoctoral fellowship at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Trost’s research addresses how individuals cope with pain and physical trauma – specifically cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses to pain that can contribute to disability or facilitate positive adjustment, as well as the potential modulating influence social, cultural, and contextual factors. Her work uses both clinical and laboratory paradigms to examine the mechanisms and impact of psychological constructs such as pain-related fear, catastrophizing, and perceptions of injustice among individuals with pain, injury, and illness. Dr. Trost’s recent work has adapted virtual reality and gaming technologies (including augmented reality and simulation) to aid in pain coping and rehabilitation among individuals with chronic pain and physical trauma, in particular spinal cord injury. She is working on harnessing these technologies to examine interpersonal processes in the context of pain and illness. Dr. Trost has received national and international recognition for her work and is grateful for wonderful colleagues worldwide. 

Kenneth M. Prkachin, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Northern British Columbia.  He trained in clinical psychology at the University of British Columbia where he developed an abiding interest in the communication of emotion and its role in interpersonal relationships and health.  This, combined with his early experience as a clinician working with patients suffering from pain, led him to embark on a clinician-scientist’s journey to understand the process of pain communication and the insights that this can provide toward understanding their lives.  His published work has examined various components of the pain process articulated in the earliest communication model of pain, including studies of the nature of pain expression, the ways in which others respond to people in pain, and the clinical implications of pain expression.  He was a central contributor to the first studies examining brain systems involved in interpreting pain in others and the development of automated systems for detecting pain.  Retired from teaching, he maintains a clinical practice and active involvement in programs of research on empathy and clinical applications of knowledge about pain expression when he is not watching the sailboats and cruise ships plying the waters of the Salish Sea from his deck.

Bibliographic information