Social interaction and pain: An arctic expedition

Per Block, Lauren C. Heathcote, Stephanie Burnett Heyes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
370 Downloads (Pure)


Complex human behaviour can only be understood within its social environment. However, disentangling the causal links between individual outcomes and social network position is empirically challenging. We present a research design in a closed real-world setting with high-resolution temporal data to understand this interplay within a fundamental human experience – physical pain. Study participants completed an isolated 3-week hiking expedition in the Arctic Circle during which they were subject to the same variation in environmental conditions and only interacted amongst themselves. Adolescents provided daily ratings of pain and social interaction partners. Using longitudinal network models, we analyze the interplay between social network position and the experience of pain. Specifically, we test whether experiencing pain is linked to decreasing popularity (increasing isolation), whether adolescents prefer to interact with others experiencing similar pain (homophily), and whether participants are increasingly likely to report similar pain as their interaction partners (contagion). We find that reporting pain is associated with decreasing popularity – interestingly, this effect holds for males only. Further exploratory analyses suggest this is at least partly driven by males withdrawing from contact with females when in pain, enhancing our understanding of pain and masculinity. Contrary to recent experimental and clinical studies, we found no evidence of pain homophily or contagion in the expedition group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date9 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Social influence
  • Sex differences
  • Stochastic actor-oriented models
  • Social networks
  • Pain
  • Adolescence


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