The role of positive emotions in promoting resilience in the face of pain

The role of positive emotions in promoting resilience in the face of pain

Background and problem statement

Pain is a highly aversive physical and emotional state. From a motivational perspective, pain demands and narrows attention, interferes with on-going activities, motivates withdrawal, and requires organismic action to regain homeostasis. Psychosocial factors play an important role in the (chronic) pain experience. In psychosocial pain research, protective psychosocial factors that can buffer the occurrence of negative consequences (i.e. depression, work loss etc) while at the same time promoting opposing upward spirals of optimal physical, emotional and social functioning in the presence of adversity such as pain have been largely neglected in scientific study. The ability to experience optimal well-being in the face of chronic stressors such as chronic pain has been termed resilience. In addition to the ability to return fast to physiological equilibrium – recovery - resilience consists of sustainability of functioning – the capacity to continue forward and maintain successful engagement with goals. Knowledge on resilience and protective factors that can promote resilience in the face of pain is lacking. In the long-term, such knowledge can improve our psychosocial interventions for chronic pain and increase self-management of individuals suffering from chronic pain disorders.

The university of Twente (department of Psychology, Health and Technology) together with Roessingh Research and Development perform research to get more insight into the mechanisms of resilience in the presence of pain. During laboratory experiments we research specific hypotheses regarding the role of positive affect (PA) as a resource of resilience in the presence of pain, and try to operationalize the effects.


In this study we want to answer the research question whether PA promotes resilience following experimentally induced pain by a Cold Pressor test in the form of physiological recovery. If PA modulates the ‘fight-or-flight’ response induced by the pain, a faster recovery of for example heart rate and heart rate variability to equilibrium or baseline can be expected. In this assignment you will perform a literature study on the state of the art to operationalize physiological recovery, and use this information to design and afterwards perform a laboratory experiment with healthy subjects to test your method. Components of this assignment include:

Literature study



Thesis writing


Interested students can contact:

Hester Trompetter

+31 53 4893985

Thijs Tönis

+31 53 4895587