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Directing attention away from pain in children and adolescents: an experimental approach

(2011)
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Abstract
Distraction is a strategy that is often intuitively used to cope with pain, and is part of many pain treatment programs. Empirical evidence concerning the effectiveness of distraction, however, is equivocal. Mixed research findings may be the result of methodological problems, but may also point to the role of influencing factors of distraction effectiveness. This dissertation aims to gain new insights in distraction research by investigating the role of beliefs, pain catastrophizing and executive functioning abilities (inhibition, working memory and task switching) in distraction in children and adolescents (age 8-24 years). For this purpose, a research design was developed which takes into account most methodological problems in previous distraction research. Overall, results showed that distraction is not always effective and influencing factors should be taken into account. For instance, the treat value of the pain seems to play an important role in the effectiveness of distraction. This dissertation has shown that distraction is believed to be less effective when the pain is experienced as threatening. Distraction was also found to be less effective in high pain catastrophizing individuals and might even increase the pain experience. Executive functioning abilities may play a less important role in the effectiveness of distraction. Although executive functioning abilities were related to the engagement with the distraction task, no relationship was found between distraction effectiveness and executive functioning, suggesting that this relationship might be influenced by other factors, such as motivation. In conclusion, this dissertation suggest that cognitive models of attention are insufficient in explaining distraction effectiveness. Cognitive-motivational models of attention may be more useful in explaining effects of distraction. According to these models, the effectiveness of distraction is likely to depend upon the interaction between bottom-up factors (e.g. characteristics of the pain such as the threat value of the pain) and top-down factors (e.g., goal-pursuit and motivation). Results of the current dissertation were used to extend these models by incorporating beliefs, executive functioning and pain catastrophizing and can be used to optimize the use of distraction techniques.
Keywords
attention, children, executive functioning, distraction, catastrophizing

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Verhoeven, Katrien. 2011. “Directing Attention Away from Pain in Children and Adolescents: An Experimental Approach”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences.
APA
Verhoeven, Katrien. (2011). Directing attention away from pain in children and adolescents: an experimental approach. Ghent University. Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Verhoeven K. Directing attention away from pain in children and adolescents: an experimental approach. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences; 2011.
MLA
Verhoeven, Katrien. “Directing Attention Away from Pain in Children and Adolescents: An Experimental Approach.” 2011 : n. pag. Print.
@phdthesis{1891725,
  abstract     = {Distraction is a strategy that is often intuitively used to cope with pain, and is part of many pain treatment programs. Empirical evidence concerning the effectiveness of distraction, however, is equivocal. Mixed research findings may be the result of methodological problems, but may also point to the role of influencing factors of distraction effectiveness. This dissertation aims to gain new insights in distraction research by investigating the role of beliefs, pain catastrophizing and executive functioning abilities (inhibition, working memory and task switching) in distraction in children and adolescents (age 8-24 years). For this purpose, a research design was developed which takes into account most methodological problems in previous distraction research. Overall, results showed that distraction is not always effective and influencing factors should be taken into account. For instance, the treat value of the pain seems to play an important role in the effectiveness of distraction. This dissertation has shown that distraction is believed to be less effective when the pain is experienced as threatening. Distraction was also found to be less effective in high pain catastrophizing individuals and might even increase the pain experience. Executive functioning abilities may play a less important role in the effectiveness of distraction. Although executive functioning abilities were related to the engagement with the distraction task, no relationship was found between distraction effectiveness and executive functioning, suggesting that this relationship might be influenced by other factors, such as motivation. In conclusion, this dissertation suggest that cognitive models of attention are insufficient in explaining distraction effectiveness. Cognitive-motivational models of attention may be more useful in explaining effects of distraction. According to these models, the effectiveness of distraction is likely to depend upon the interaction between bottom-up factors (e.g. characteristics of the pain such as the threat value of the pain) and top-down factors (e.g., goal-pursuit and motivation). Results of the current dissertation were used to extend these models by incorporating beliefs, executive functioning and pain catastrophizing and can be used to optimize the use of distraction techniques.},
  author       = {Verhoeven, Katrien},
  keyword      = {attention,children,executive functioning,distraction,catastrophizing},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {269},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Directing attention away from pain in children and adolescents: an experimental approach},
  year         = {2011},
}