Pain is aversive, but does the cessation of pain (‘relief’) have a reward-like effect? Indeed, fruitflies avoid an odour previously presented before a painful event, but approach an odour previously presented after a painful event. Thus, event-timing may turn punishment to reward. However, is event-timing also crucial in humans who can have explicit cognitions about associations? Here, we show that stimuli associated with pain-relief acquire positive implicit valence but are explicitly rated as aversive. Specifically, the startle response, an evolutionarily conserved defence reflex, is attenuated by stimuli that had previously followed a painful event, indicating implicit positive valence of the conditioned stimulus; nevertheless, participants explicitly evaluate these stimuli as ‘emotionally negative’. These results demonstrate a rift between the implicit and explicit conditioned valence induced by pain relief. They might explain why humans in some cases are attracted by conditioned stimuli despite explicitly judging them as negative.

Additional Metadata
Keywords relief, pain, startle reflex
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2010.0103, hdl.handle.net/1765/120842
Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Section B-Biological Sciences
Citation
Andreatta, M., Muehlberger, A., Yarali, A, Gerber, B, & Pauli, P. (2010). A rift between implicit and explicit conditioned valence in human pain relief learning. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Section B-Biological Sciences, 277, 2411–2416. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0103