Katelyn Morris

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Social Pain Theory has shown that adverse social experiences activate the same neural circuits as physical pain. Attachment Theory posits that most people use one of three attachment styles – anxious, avoidant, or secure – to cope with and mentally model the ups and downs of social interaction. This experiment examines how Social Pain Theory and Attachment Theory overlap in the context of pain related empathy. Participants completed an online survey measuring their attachment styles. They were then assigned a writing prompt designed to invoke states of belongingness, exclusion, or to serve as a control. Afterwards, they were shown a picture of a painful injury and asked to rate the individual’s pain. Results showed that participants with Avoidant attachment exhibited significantly lower pain-related empathy on the Affective subscale regardless of condition. Furthermore, when placed in the Inclusion condition, participants with Anxious attachment styles increased their ratings for Evaluative PRI. Conversely, Avoidant individuals in this condition exhibited the opposite effect, lowering their ratings along the same subscale.

Publication Date






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