The effects of a recalled injustice on the experience of experimentally induced pain and anxiety in relation to just-world beliefs

J.L. McParland*, C. Knussen, J. Murray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


A growing field of investigation into social justice cognitions and pain suggests perceived injustice has a negative impact on pain, but little is known about individual variation in the impact of a perceived injustice. One published study found that individuals with a strong rather than a weak just‐world belief reported greater pain from the cold pressor task after experiencing a perceived injustice, but an overt measure of perceived unfairness is needed to investigate this relationship.

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, before repeating the cold pressor task. Pain and anxiety measures were completed following each cold pressor task.

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 were associated with significantly increased pain and anxiety.

Recalled personal injustice unrelated to one's current pain experience had a negative impact on pain and anxiety associated with the cold pressor task. These findings indicate that intervention development should be cognizant of the role of everyday injustices and not just those related to pain, on the pain experience.

What does this study add?
This study shows that, independent of just‐world beliefs, perceived unfairness associated with a recalled injustice unrelated to pain has a negative impact on the experience of acute pain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1392–1401
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number9
Early online date16 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • pain
  • anxiety
  • social justice cognitions


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