PMID: 12038648Jun 1, 2002Paper

A theoretical framework for understanding self-report and observational measures of pain: a communications model

Behaviour Research and Therapy
T Hadjistavropoulos, K D Craig


Self-report and observational measures of pain are examined from the perspective of a model of human communication. This model examines the experience of pain as affected by intrapersonal and contextual factors, the process whereby it is encoded into expressive behaviour, and the process of decoding by observers prior to their engaging in action. Self-report measures primarily capture expressive pain behaviour that is under the control of higher mental processes, whereas observational measures capture behaviour that is less subject to voluntary control and more automatic. Automatic expressive behaviours are subject to less purposeful distortion than are behaviours dependent upon higher mental processes. Consequently, observational measures can be used and have clinical utility as indices of pain when self-report is not available, for example, in infants, young children, people with intellectual disabilities or brain damage, and seniors with dementia. These measures are also useful when the credibility of self-report is questioned and even when credible self-report is available. However, automatic behaviours may be more difficult for observers to decode. The model outlined herein takes into account the role of various human deve...Continue Reading


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