It's not fair. The effects of a recalled injustice on the experience of acute pain

J. McParland, C. Knussen, J. Murray

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Background: Research suggests that social justice cognitions can affect health. Specifically, perceived injustice, defined as loss and blame/unfairness in relation to injury, is consistently associated with poor pain outcomes. Little is known about who is most likely to be affected by injustice, thus needing intervention, although evidence indicates that strong just-world believers are most threatened by underserved outcomes, a central ingredient of perceived injustice. The present study investigated the relationship between the just-world belief and perceived injustice in an experimental pain context.
Methods: A between-groups experimental design was adopted. Following the completion of just-world belief and state anxiety scales and the cold pressor task, 114 healthy participants were interviewed about either an experienced injustice or the characteristics of their home (control condition), before repeating the cold pressor task. Pain and anxiety measures were completed following each cold pressor task. Repeated measures analyses of covariance were used to analyse the data.
Findings: Opposing the hypotheses, no differences were found on pain and anxiety between the two interview conditions and individuals with a strong just-world belief did not report higher pain and anxiety levels following a recalled injustice. However, within the recalled injustice condition, unfairness ratings associated with a past or present injustice were associated with significantly increased pain and anxiety.
Discussion: Overall, the findings support previous research on the adverse effects of a perceived injustice and extend them to suggest these effects may occur for a resolved or unresolved injustice that is unrelated to pain, thus carrying implications for intervention development.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • acute pain
  • anxiety
  • intervention development


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