Expectancy Effects of Pain and Disgust in Perceptual and Moral Desicions
Although pain expectancy effects have been described before (e.g., the placebo analgesic effect), it seems that their specificity was never questioned before. After all, it might be that when people anticipate pain, they form a representation of the forthcoming event, which is similar to when they anticipate other aversive experiences, such as the case of disgust. My research focuses on pain and disgust as they are qualitatively different experiences, but they also share many crucial elements – from theoretical considerations, biological and neural processing to their final effect on the behavior. In my talk, I would present three studies that examined the nature and specificity of expectancy of pain and disgust in the context of perceptual decisions (Study I & II) and higher cognitive (moral) decisions (Study III). I conducted experiments on healthy human volunteers, which were all engaged in a new experimental set-up, specifically developed for testing the following experimental questions: (1) to what degree pain and disgust expectations recruit similar/dissociated representations of the upcoming event? (2) to which extent pain and disgust expectations affect high-level decisions, such as those involving morally-questionable behavior? The first two studies were designed to investigate whether the expectation of pain and disgust recruit information related to the sensory-specific component of the stimulus or its affective consequences (shared across modalities). In Study I, I measured behavioral and physiological responses, whereas, in Study II, I measured behavioral and neural signals through fMRI. In Study III, two experiments were designed to test whether moral judgments could be modulated in a comparable or differential way by pain and disgust expectancy.