Can Academic Competition Trigger Stress-Induced Analgesia?
Haverford College. Department of Psychology
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The stress of athletic competition has been shown to cause decreased pain sensitivity in both sexes, through a process called stress-induced analgesia (SIA). Even sedentary competition on a video game can induce analgesia, but only in males. In order to further clarify competition's role in SIA, and to determine whether sedentary competition is a SIA trigger for both sexes, the present study aimed to investigate whether competition on a gender neutral task, an academic test, could trigger SIA. After testing the pain sensitivity levels of 37 undergraduates, on both a baseline day and while they engaged in an academic competition task, we found no overall pain sensitivity changes across day. Analgesia depended upon gender and athletic status, with females as well as athletes demonstrating a decrease in pain sensitivity (i.e. analgesia) on the academic test day. Thus, we concluded that our contrived competition was not an adequately salient stressor, and that this research should be repeated with a competition that encourages a higher level of engagement from participants.