When hurt will not heal

Exploring the capacity to relive social and physical pain

Zhansheng Chen*, Kipling D. Williams, Julie Fitness, Nicola C. Newton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

118 Citations (Scopus)


Recent discoveries suggest that social pain is as real and intense as physical pain, and that the social-pain system may have piggybacked on the brain structure that had evolved earlier for physical pain. The present study examined an important distinction between social and physical pain: Individuals can relive and reexperience social pain more easily and more intensely than physical pain. Studies 1 and 2 showed that people reported higher levels of pain after reliving a past socially painful event than after reliving a past physically painful event. Studies 3 and 4 found, in addition, that people performed worse on cognitively demanding tasks after they relived social rather than physical pain. Implications for research on social pain and theories about social pain are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-795
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008

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