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Scandinavian Journal of Pain

Official Journal of the Scandinavian Association for the Study of Pain

Editor-in-Chief: Breivik, Harald

CiteScore 2017: 0.84

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.401
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.452

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Volume 17, Issue 1


Effects of validating communication on recall during a pain-task in healthy participants

Johan K.P. Carstens / Katja Boersma / Martien G.S. Schrooten / Steven J. Linton
Published Online: 2017-10-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sjpain.2017.07.003



Increasing recall of instructions and advice in a pain consultation is important, since it is a prerequisite for adherence to treatment recommendations. However, interference due to pain-related distress may result in poor recall. Whereas there are some indications that recall can be increased by empathic communication that reduces interference, this interesting possibility remains largely untested experimentally.

The current experiment aimed at studying effects of empathic communication, and more specifically validation, on recall during a pain test and possible mediators and moderators of this effect.


Participants received either validating (N = 25) or invalidating responses (N = 25) from the experimenter during a pain provoking task, followed by self-report measures of interference (affect, situational pain catastrophizing) and recall (accurate and false memories of words).


As expected, the validated group exhibited higher accurate recall and less false memories following the pain test as compared to the invalidated group. This was partly due to the effect of interference being counteracted by moderating the relationship between pain catastrophizing and recall.


These novel results suggest that validating communication can counteract interference due to pain catastrophizing on recall, at least in a controlled experimental setting.


Good communication by health professionals is of utmost importance for adherence to pain management. The current results expand our knowledge on the effects of pain communication by establishing and explaining a clear link between empathic communication and recall, highlighting the role of pain catastrophizing.

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.

Keywords: Validation; Communication; Memory recall; Pain catastrophizing; Affect


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About the article

Received: 2017-03-27

Revised: 2017-06-13

Accepted: 2017-07-05

Published Online: 2017-10-01

Published in Print: 2017-10-01

Ethical issues: Information and consent was gathered at two time points for every participant, first digitally when conducting the pretest and then before the experimental procedure. This procedure was reviewed and approved by the regional ethics board in Uppsala.

Funding: This research was funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsradet). Beyond granting funding for this study, they have no involvement in the project.

Conflicts of interest: No conflicts of interest declared.

Citation Information: Scandinavian Journal of Pain, Volume 17, Issue 1, Pages 118–125, ISSN (Online) 1877-8879, ISSN (Print) 1877-8860, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sjpain.2017.07.003.

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