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Accurate empathy of romantic partners increases pain ratings but promotes recovery

Authors Sun B, Zhou L, Xiao W, Zhao X, Zhang W, Li W

Received 16 June 2018

Accepted for publication 17 August 2018

Published 27 September 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 403—410


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman

Binghai Sun,1 Lingyan Zhou,1 Weilong Xiao,1 Xiaoqian Zhao,1 Wenhai Zhang,1,2 Weijian Li1

1School of Teacher Education, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua 321004, China; 2Mental Health Center, Yancheng Institute of Technology, Yancheng 224051, China

Background: Perceived empathy is a commonly used strategy to cope with pain and is crucial for maintaining intimacy in dyadic relationships.
Materials and methods: This study used the cold pressor test to investigate how perceived empathy and relationship type interact with the subjective perception of pain and objective measures of recovery time, using heart rate as an index. One hundred and ninety participants were recruited, including 49 friend dyads and 46 romantic partner dyads. Perceived empathy was manipulated by adopting three levels as the experimental conditions: high, accurate, and low.
Results: In the subjective perception stage, the results showed a significant interaction of relationship type and empathy with pain reporting, indicating that romantic partners reported more pain than friends under the accurate empathy condition. There were no differences between the two groups in the high and low perceived empathy conditions. In the self-recovery stage, the results showed that romantic partners had less pain tolerance than friends in all three perceived empathy conditions. On the other hand, romantic partners recovered faster than friends under the accurate empathy condition, but not under the high and low perceived empathy conditions.
Conclusion: These results suggest that perceived accurate empathy is necessary for romantic relationships when coping with pain. The findings deepen our understanding of the mechanism of perceived empathy, and the ways in which it modulates psychological and physiological responses in a social context.

Keywords: accurate empathy, recovery time, romantic relationship, cold pressor test

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