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Pain priors, polyeidism, and predictive power: a preliminary investigation into individual differences in our ordinary thought about pain

Borg, E. ORCID:, Fisher, S. A., Hansen, N., Harrison, R. ORCID:, Ravindran, D., Salomons, T. V. and Wilkinson, H. (2021) Pain priors, polyeidism, and predictive power: a preliminary investigation into individual differences in our ordinary thought about pain. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 42 (3-4). pp. 113-135. ISSN 1573-1200

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s11017-021-09552-1


According to standard philosophical and clinical understandings, pain is an essentially mental phenomenon (typically, a kind of conscious experience). In a challenge to this standard conception, a recent burst of empirical work in experimental philosophy, such as that by Justin Sytsma and Kevin Reuter, purports to show that people ordinarily conceive of pain as an essentially bodily phenomenon—specifically, a quality of bodily disturbance. In response to this bodily view, other recent experimental studies have provided evidence that the ordinary (‘folk’) concept of pain is more complex than previously assumed: rather than tracking only bodily or only mental aspects of pain, the ordinary concept of pain can actually track either of these aspects. The polyeidic (or ‘many ideas’) analysis of the folk concept of pain, as proposed by Emma Borg et al., captures this complexity. Whereas previous empirical support for the polyeidic view has focused on the context-sensitivity of the folk concept of pain, here we discuss individual differences in people’s ‘pain priors’—namely, their standing tendencies to think of pain in relatively mind-centric or body-centric ways. We describe a preliminary empirical study and present a small number of findings, which will be explored further in future work. The results we discuss are part of a larger programme of work which seeks to integrate philosophical pain research into clinical practice. For example, we hypothesise that variations in how patients with chronic pain are thinking about pain could help predict their responses to treatment.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:94642

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