Pain Tolerance Increased by Social Presence in Virtual Environments

Title: Pain Tolerance Increased by Social Presence in Virtual Environments

Investigator: Andrea Stevenson Won, PhD, Cornell University

Overview: This experiment examines the effects of social presence, in near and far virtual environments, on pain threshold in healthy volunteers via an induced pain task. In this within-subjects study, participants will complete a series of induced-pain heat ramps in virtual environments that are “near” or “far”—i.e., they will either duplicate their actual physical environment, or represent another location. A second factor in this experiment will be mediated social presence, in which participants interact with confederates as avatars in either condition. The following hypotheses are proposed: H1: Participants who feel present in a remote location will have a higher pain tolerance than those in a near location. H2: Participants who feel socially present with a confederate will have a higher pain tolerance than those who are alone in a virtual environment. H3: There will be an interaction between social presence and virtual environment such that participants who feel socially present in a remote location will have the highest pain tolerance overall.