Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 8-29-2019


Pain is an adverse experience and a motivating force which allows for effective responding to environmental threats. There has been limited research in how pain related consequences can be learned outside of direct experience. The purpose of this study was to investigate if a non-painful threatening stimulus can modulate pain behavior. Forty-three male participants were trained via a computer task to respond to a threatening visual symbol (i.e. learned-threat). Participants also completed a painful task, a cold-pressor task (CPT), prior to and after threat training and were randomly assigned to threat/non-threat conditions during a CPT after the threat training. Repeated measures mixed-effects model compared tolerance time and pain ratings between conditions. The threat condition did not significantly influence CPT tolerance time or pain intensity. Therefore, a recently learned non-painful threatening stimulus does not affect pain intensity or tolerance during a CPT.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Jacob Vigil

Second Committee Member

Kevin Vowles

Third Committee Member

Derek Hamilton

Fourth Committee Member

Eric Ruthruff


experimental pain, operant conditioning, risk-taking, computerized task, immersive environment, learning

Document Type


Included in

Psychology Commons