Sampling Bias in Pain Research

Pain, Please: an Investigation of Sampling Bias in Pain ResearchKai Karos, Jessica M. Alleva, Madelon L. Peter – Science Direct – March 2018

I only have access to the abstract of this article, but the results are quite clear: thrill seekers – the ones who are more susceptible to addiction – are the ones who sign up for pain studies.


  • Experimental pain research may be especially susceptible for sampling bias.
  • Fear of pain was associated with perceived likelihood of participation.
  • Sensation seeking was associated with participation in experimental pain research.
  • Sampling bias can threaten the external validity and generalizability of pain research.

Experimental pain research frequently relies on the recruitment of volunteers. However, because experimental pain research often involves unpleasant and painful sensations, it may be especially susceptible to sampling bias.

That is, volunteers in experimental pain research might differ from nonvolunteers on several relevant variables that could affect the generalizability and external validity of the research

We conducted two studies to investigate potential sampling bias in experimental pain research.

In Study 1 we assessed participants’ (N = 275; Age: 17 to 30 years) perceived likelihood of participating in pain research. Pain catastrophizing, fear of pain, illness and injury sensitivity, depression, anxiety, sensation seeking, gender identity, body appreciation, and social desirability were also assessed as potential predictors of the likelihood to participate

In Study 2, participants (N = 87; Age: 18 to 31 years) could sign up for two nearly identical studies, with only one involving painful sensations

36 participants signed up for the pain study and

51 participants signed up for the no-pain study.

Study 1 showed that lower levels of fear of pain, higher levels of sensation seeking, and older age predicted the perceived likelihood of participating in pain research

Study 2 demonstrated significantly higher levels of sensation seeking in participants who signed up for the pain study compared to those who signed up for the no-pain study.

The implications of these findings for future research, as well as the clinical conclusions based on experimental pain research, are discussed.

3 thoughts on “Sampling Bias in Pain Research

  1. Kathy C

    Many of the more misleading “Studies” are done on healthy college students. The clear Bias of the Researchers, such as Expectation Bias is clear even in the News release itself. I am afraid we have all been deliberately duped, lied to and misled. With the latest about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, our “News” is soft-peddling. The real story is how they used the Data, from the Psychological Experiments.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Problems with Evidence Based Medicine | EDS and Chronic Pain News & Info

  3. Pingback: Sampling Bias in Pain Research: Update | EDS and Chronic Pain News & Info

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