Ethnic Differences in Responses to Multiple Experimental Pain Stimuli

Claudia M. Campbell et al., University of Hawai'i, August 14, 2004


A growing body of literature suggests that the experience of clinical pain differs across ethnocultural groups. Additionally, some evidence indicates greater sensitivity to experimentally induced pain among African Americans; however, most studies have included only one pain modality. This study examined ethnic differences in responses to multiple experimental pain stimuli, including heat pain, cold pressor pain, and ischemic pain. Heat pain threshold and tolerance, ratings of repetitive suprathreshold heat, and ischemic and cold pressor pain threshold and tolerance were assessed in 120 (62 African American, 58 white) healthy young adults. Also, several psychological instruments were administered. No ethnic group differences emerged for threshold measures, but African Americans had lower tolerances for heat pain, cold pressor pain and ischemic pain compared to whites. Ratings of intensity and unpleasantness for suprathreshold heat stimuli were significantly higher among African Americans. African Americans reported greater use of passive pain coping strategies and higher levels of hypervigilance. Controlling for passive pain coping did not account for group differences in pain responses, while controlling for hypervigilance rendered group differences in heat pain tolerance and ischemic pain tolerance non-significant. These findings demonstrate differences in laboratory pain responses between African Americans and whites across multiple stimulus modalities, and effect sizes for these differences in pain tolerance were moderate to large for suprathreshold measures. Hypervigilance partly accounted for group differences. Additional research to determine the mechanisms underlying these effects is warranted.

[Editor’s Note: The full study is available at the original article link below.]

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  • Token Finn

    Blacks complain a lot; they’re still feeling the pain of slavery, even if their ancestors did not. Some studies indicate that higher testosterone is linked with superior pain treshold, and this study may seem to contradict that. However, it may well be that other, unknown racial differences between whites and blacks are stronger than that simple hormonal factor and overcome the contribution of testosterone.

    • The__Bobster

      I blame their lower pain threshold on their thin skin.

    • pcmustgo

      The PC crowd is always making fun of whites saying whites complain a lot and feel “entitled” to a middle class life, etc . There’s a website called White Whine that talks about “white people problems”, you know like broken panini presses and such.

      • Katherine McChesney


  • Andy

    University of “Hawai’i”? GAR.

  • The__Bobster

    I once read that blue-eyed individuals had the highest pain threshold.

    • pcmustgo

      And red heads the lowest

    • That is probably true. My husband is blue eyed and has gone through several bouts with kidney stones and he has an extremely high threshold of pain.

    • Bossman

      Not necessarily a good thing. Your ability to feel pain is there for your protection. A lot of sick and crazy people do not feel much pain. One way to spot a crazy person is if they walking around on a cold day without warm clothes.

  • pcmustgo

    Wow, I’m surprised blacks aren’t more tolerant of pain. I had heard some psych professor once mention that.

    Also, Red Heads are more sensitive to pain too, so…

    • pcmustgo

      Surprised because everyone is always saying how “strong” and enduring Black people are.

      • StillModerated

        Well, if everybody says it, then it must be true. Sarc off.

        • Martel

          They don’t have a soul, that’s cheating

    • Katherine McChesney

      I always heard that they couldn’t feel pain if you knocked them in the head. Of course, that was the joke in the 60’s.

    • Jefferson

      Gingers are more sensitive to pain. That would explain why there are zero naturally red haired UFC fighters.

      You have to have a high threshold for pain if you want to become a UFC fighter or else you will not last 5 minutes in that sport.

      • Economist

        I don’t know about that. Quite a few Vikings were redheads, not to mention Russians who are not known as being “sensitive.”

      • MBlanc46

        Either that or redheads have more sense than to engage in such things.

      • Bossman

        There’s also the idea that redheads are more passionate and sexy. It could be that those who feel pain more also get more pleasure–especially out of sex. That is the way nature works.

        • Jefferson

          If you like redheads so much than why do you support more immigration from racially mixed Latin American mutt nations ?

          Racial miscegenation between Africans, Amerindians, and Spaniards do not produce more redheads. If it anything eliminates the redhead genes.

          That is why you never see any Ginger haired Wetbacks in the desert crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. by coyotes. All you see is sea of jet black haired Chicanos being smuggled into this country.

          • Bossman

            That is because you don’t anything about anthropology and race mixing. When black-haired people interbreed with blond people, they will produce many offsprings with red hair. That is a scientific fact. I once saw a group of Irish gypsies, the most surprising thing about them was how so many of them had red hair. As for Latin America, most of the Miss Universe winners are from Latin America. Raquel Welch, sex symbol of the late sixties and seventies is a good example of what you get when you cross a Mexican/Indian/Mestizo with an Anglo-saxon.

          • Jefferson

            I personally know a blond haired half German and half Polish American male co-worker who married a black haired Nicaraguan woman.

            They have 3 kids together and ZERO of them came out with red hair. So you are the one who does not know anything about anthropology and race mixing. So cut the B.S.

            The majority of Latin Americans are not suitable breeding partners for White people.

        • Eve

          I read recently or did someone post that redheads, I think women specifically, have way more sex or something than other colors of hair. Redheads in my direct experience are more sensitive. It’s an interesting theory b/c I can’t come up with one as to why they get l*** more often…

  • JohnEngelman

    Because blacks have a tendency to behave this way

    I would expect more tolerance to pain.

    • I wonder where asians would come up on this scale. Seems a lot of them were whining in that film “The Killing Fields.”

      • Morris LeChat

        That is uncalled for

      • a multiracial individual


      • Intrepid

        If anything, it’s probably an inverse scale… with blacks responding the most to pain and Asians the least… again with whites in the middle.

        • Bossman

          There is an upside to this. If they feel pain more. they also experience pleasure more. There is an old idea that Blacks enjoy sex more than Whites or Asians.

          • edie

            well, it’s about all they have…….

            they aren’t going to pursue many intellectual endeavors.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      Naah. They behave that way because of emotional immaturity, poor impulse control and general stupidity. I couldn’t help but notice that the ruckus in your video clip occurred at a university, so at least in theory these doofs are a cut above the average.

      • edie

        lots of posturing…………territory claiming etc.

        basic animal actions and reactions, esp. during mating season….

    • purestocles

      That was a very enlightening video. “it’s going down!” I learned a lot. “it’s going down!” These students are the future leaders of tomorrow. “it’s going down!” We are on the cusp of greatness. “it’s going down!”

      • JohnEngelman

        I have been trying to find out what they were fighting about. I imagine a few people got lost teeth and punchered ear drums from that fracas.

  • bigone4u

    If race is only a social construct, this study could not be valid. Since race is real, then the study says to me that blacks are going to mooch off of Obamacare to an unbelievable degree. Their use of prescription drugs will also skyrocket to cope with their “pain.” Old Bill Clinton was talking to blacks when he famously said, “I feel your pain,” with that tremble in his lower lip. The study also prompts me to ask my proverbial question: Is there any reason at all for blacks to exist? They seem to be inferior at everything that is associated with survival.

  • brengunn

    Interesting. I also would have thought this wouldn’t be the case, what with their testosterone levels. It would be nice to see some results of orientals, too. They should always have orientals involved in experiments like this because it gives a better understanding about wider racial differences rather than just the usual black white differences.

    • Eve

      Men have thicker skin, literally here, generally than women because of testosterone. Blacks have it for reasons I don’t know.

      • Bossman

        Yes, Blacks do have thicker skin than whites. The reason given is that they needed it in the extreme climate of tropical Africa for protection against the elements, sunlight and germs.

    • edie

      Koreans are tough, very tough

      don’t ever get on the wrong side of a Korean.
      They are much better as friends.

  • Bill

    Blacks have a lower threshold for most EVERYTHING. Self restraint. Thinking about the future. Intelligence and achievement. Behavior that becomes explosive and murderous. Determining right from wrong. Foreseeing the consequences of their actions and behavior. Well, you get the idea. Most worthless race on the face of the planet, actually.

  • Secret Tribunal

    The White community has the highest pain threshold of all.

    If we had a low pain threshold, we wouldn’t have allowed all these problems to get out of hand and the upper hand over us.

    We are masochists who barely feel a thing.

  • GeneticsareDestiny

    I would have thought they’d have a higher pain tolerance than whites, since they seem to enjoy getting into fights so much. Even the ones who get badly injured never seem to regret the fight or wish it never happened.

    I guess it must really just be their inherent violent tendencies.

    • Morris LeChat

      Just watch the video “epic beard man” to see how vulnerable they are. They are as soft as rotten fruit.

      • John R

        I disagree. Most blacks are pretty tough. They do have a violent culture. But, and that video proves it, they are not ten feet tall as the media portray them. A tough determined White man can beat them in a fair fight.

        • David Ashton

          Rorke’s Drift.

          • Martel

            I don’t understand the reference, divulge, please ^^

          • Have you seen the film Zulu?

          • Martel

            I never even heard of it too be honest

          • It was made in the early 60s and starred Michael Caine and Stanley Baker. 130 Welsh Guards fought off some 4000 Zulus.

            The location of this battle was at Rorke’s Drift in South Africa.

            Good film.

          • edie

            Read, The washing of the spears……….

            tells the rise and defeat of zulus……. by Whites

          • Martel

            Thanks, i will try to see it

  • Morris LeChat

    they are just weak period, they can not work, they can not control their impulses and they can not stand any discomfort.

    • bigone4u

      Does the phrase “useless eaters” come to mind? Just askin’.

      • Morris LeChat

        obsolete farm equipment

  • Mentious

    Stoical and tough Nordics! Austerity-wrought mind-over-matter. We didn’t master the north for nothin’! And certain Red Sea Pedestrians in positions of influence keep trying to tell our young white kids that they don’t exist.

    In Hindu terms from the Yoga-Sutra Whites have a greater capacity for vairagya, i.e. dispassion and austerities, necessary for enlightenment. Aum, Amen.

  • August West

    Blacks attack in packs because of a lack of a high pain threshold and cognitive thinking. I thank my ancestors for selling us for a few dollars more.

  • flyingtiger

    could explain why so many blacks have drug and drinking problems. Also could explain why they like pot cocaine, and booze and never liked speed and LSD.

    • Erasmus

      Speed appeals to people who typically want to get a lot done. ‘nuf said.

  • LHathaway

    “We are masochists who barely feel a thing”.

    Whites aren’t supposed to have feelings. At least that’s how they condition us. Judging for myself i think its working

  • KenelmDigby

    So much for that oft-repeated line, (repeated here, by some, on Amren, alas), that blacks are the ‘tougher race’.

  • KenelmDigby

    Well, you just look at their traditional music and culture.
    Their music (ie blues, jazz, rap etc), only really has two themes, sexual bragging and self-pitying whining.

  • Morris LeChat

    It doesn’t stop them from burning their scalps with lye in an effort to have caucasian hair. Hey, does this mean that Michael Jackson’s burned scalp was more painful than most white people thought?

  • August West

    Pain stimuli be racciss n sheeit.

  • WR_the_realist

    Because of the innately subjective experience of pain it is impossible to know whether blacks actually feed pain more intensely or just complain about it sooner.