Social Interaction and Pain Threshold in Virtual Reality

Andrea Stevenson Won*, Swati Pandita, Kaylee Payne Kruzan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This experiment examined the effects of social presence and perceived location of a virtual environment on participants' pain thresholds in a preregistered, within-subjects experiment. First, we examined the effects of social interaction versus being alone in a virtual environment. Second, we compared a virtual environment representing a remote location to a replication of the laboratory environment. Social interaction predicted increased pain tolerance, but there was no effect of the "location"of the virtual environment. To our knowledge, this research project is the first to use real-time social interaction in virtual reality as a distractor for experimental thermal pain, and the first to examine the potential interaction between social interaction and transportation to different virtual locations. While this task is not directly analogous to the experience of pain in a medical setting, this preliminary study indicates future avenues for patient treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-845
Number of pages17
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • induced pain
  • pain
  • social closeness
  • social presence
  • transportation
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Social Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Applied Psychology
  • Computer Science Applications


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