Good Intentions Lessen Pain

A new study conducted by researchers at The University of Maryland has discovered that how others perceive our intentions can improve our resilience to pain, our responsiveness to pleasure, even enhance our senses.

The study, to be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science,  revealed that home-baked cookies made by a loving relative really do taste better and that a good bedside manner can ease the pain of a patient. While it would appear that the pain of a slap or the joy of a caress would relate directly to the physical experience of touch, it would appear that how they are percieved is influenced by the context in which they appear. Says Kurt Gray, lead researcher, 'The results confirm that good intentions—even misguided ones—can sooth pain, increase pleasure, and


make things taste better. More broadly, these studies suggest that basic physical experience depends upon how we perceive the minds of others.'

The conclusions of the study were drawn from three seperate experiments: examining pain, pleasure and the taste of a sweet treat. The study featuring pain found that bedside manner really does matter, with those from whom blood was drawn experiencing more pain than those being administered by a sweetly tempered nurse.

Meanwhile, those receiving help from family and friends felt more comforted if they believed the assistance was provided with generosity and compassion. And those eating sweet treats enjoyed them more when they thought that the cook had prepared it with love.

"It’s no surprise that food companies always pair their products with kindly old grandfathers and smiling mothers - thinking this make-believe benevolence likely increases our enjoyment.

"To the extent that we view others as benevolent instead of malicious, the harms they inflict upon us should hurt less, and the good things they do for us should cause more pleasure.”

This has clear applications in the field of massage therapy, demonstrating that therapists should cultivate a warm, responsive persona in order to give their clients the best treatment possible.