Sex differences in common pain events: Expectations and anchors

Michael E. Robinson*, Christine M. Gagnon, Erin A. Dannecker, Jennifer L. Brown, Rebecca L. Jump, Donald D. Price

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Abstract: This study examined (1) the effects of sex-related stereotypes in commonly experienced, potentially painful events and (2) differences in events representing the worst pain sensation imaginable for the typical woman and the typical man. Undergraduates (63 women and 54 men) completed the Situational Pain Questionnaire as the typical woman would and as the typical man would. The participants also answered 2 open-ended questions regarding the worst pain sensation imaginable for the typical woman and for the typical man. Our findings demonstrate that sex-related stereotypes extend to common pain events and that men and women expected that men would report less pain for common pain events than women. This suggests a gender-role related learning history that is relatively consistent for both sexes. The worst pain sensation imaginable was perceived to be different for typical men and women. Both sexes chose injury as the class of events men would find most painful and childbirth and menstrual pain as the class of events women would find most painful. Implications of this finding for common pain scaling approaches are discussed. The results of this study were obtained from a fairly uniform group of undergraduate men and women, which may limit the generalizability of our findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-45
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003


  • Anchors
  • Expectations
  • Pain
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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