It seems to be obvious, but until now, no one has established a rule to establish how much attention draw the pain related words from people already affected by the pain those words are related to.
The current study, “More than meets the eye: visual attention biases in individuals reporting chronic pain”, published in the Journal of Pain Research, incorporated an eye-tracker, which is a more sophisticated measuring tool to test reaction time than the previously used dot-probe task in similar studies.
“The use of an eye-tracker opens up a number of previously unavailable avenues for research to more directly tap what people with chronic pain attend to and how this attention may influence the presence of pain,” says Professor Joel Katz, Canada Research Chair in Health Psychology, the co-author of the study.
The researchers recorded both reaction time and eye movements of chronic pain (51) and pain-free (62) participants. Both groups viewed neutral and sensory pain-related words on a dot-probe task. They found reaction time did not indicate attention, but “the eye-tracking technology captured eye gaze patterns with millimetre precision,” according to Fashler. She points out that this helped researchers to determine how frequently and how long individuals looked at sensory pain words.
“We now know that people with and without chronic pain differ in terms of how, where and when they attend to pain-related words. This is a first step in identifying whether the attentional bias is involved in making pain more intense or more salient to the person in pain,” says Katz.