Psychology

Altruism reduces physical pain

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Science  14 Feb 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6479, pp. 753-754
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6479.753-g

The physical sensation of pain may depend on how people psychologically construe it. Wang et al. conducted a series of studies to demonstrate that engaging in painful activities to help others is associated with reduced perceptions of pain. In follow-up studies, they found that experimentally manipulating people to donate to charitable causes reduces pain sensations. Brain areas related to pain sensation demonstrated reduced activation when participants donated. In a final study, cancer patients randomly assigned to engage in helping behaviors over the course of a week reported less chronic pain. These results suggest that engaging in prosocial behaviors may have alleviative properties for the individual performer.

Proc. Acad. Natl. Sci. U.S.A.117, 950 (2020).

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