Original Report| Volume 14, ISSUE 9, P948-956, September 2013

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The Effect of Neuroticism on the Recall of Persistent Low-Back Pain and Perceived Activity Interference


      The assessment of persistent pain often relies on recalling and then summarizing the entire pain experience using a single rating. Newer methodologies, such as the Original Pain Recall Assessment, ask people to recall the pain they experienced over a specific period of time by tracing a single line in a graph to represent their pain levels. One advantage of this approach is that one can compare recalled levels of pain with actual daily diary pain ratings. This methodology was used to investigate the effects of neuroticism on the recall of levels and patterns of persistent pain. The study involved 70 participants who completed a measure of neuroticism, depressive symptoms, and up to 15 daily diaries that asked for ratings of pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, and activity interference due to pain. Following completion of the daily diary period, the participants were asked to recall the entire diary period using the Original Pain Recall Assessment methodology. The analyses revealed that higher levels of neuroticism were related to significantly better recall of the variability of pain unpleasantness over time. Furthermore, individuals who reported higher levels of depressive symptoms were less accurate in the recall of pain in general.


      Memory for pain is crucial in the assessment of pain, with little research devoted to the study of this topic. The current study demonstrates that people higher on neuroticism had better recall of pain unpleasantness, and people with higher levels of depressive symptoms had poorer recall of pain in general.

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