Home > Poking At New Research > A new category: Poking At New Research

A new category: Poking At New Research

Blog Abstract
To keep up with (random) new research, find new material to blog about and practice my skills to poke at said research, a new category for this blog, aptly named “Poking At New Research”, is created. The first entry in this category is an article that focuses on the impact of intentional pain.

Wow, I sure have neglected this whole blogging thing. I do not really have an excuse. Well, besides being busy with various important activities.

“Huh? Oh alright, I’ll bite: what important activities?”

Such as trying to land a good job and wrapping up my master program so I can finally graduate. My master’s thesis is actually already done, but there is something else I have to do before I can submit and defend it. But I will procrastinate that story for later, if ever. More importantly: I have been preparing for a very long blog post containing my idea to improve scholarly communication, which is based on my master’s thesis. However, I first want to wrap up my graduation and all that before I finish that particular blog post.

It may seem kind of odd to do it in this order; getting feedback before “publishing it” seems to be a more logical order. But I doubt it really matters, because if it is good there is plenty of time to improve and develop it later. I do find it important to present it properly so it is better to understand and build upon. So that is why I am delaying it until I am completely at ease with everything else.

“That’s surprisingly whiny, even for you…”

In the meantime, I have kept up reading various informative outlets just to stay informed on topical news. Since I want to keep on blogging, I might as well comment on news that I read. That should provide me with enough material to blog about until I can focus on my own thing again. Two birds with one stone!

“I agree. Criticizing others is always more fun than being criticized yourself!”

Well, I have always wanted to do such a special category. Since I am just a master student, I guess it is like a “layman’s perspective” on the significance of (new) research (or lack thereof). So without further ado, I present you a new category: Poking At Research. Posts in this category focus on topical scientific news and their “originality” value according to little old me.

“I’m sure scholars all over the world are lining up to hear from wannabe scholars like you this very minute.”

Well, it keeps me “up to date” on some of the recent research that gets published. I also think that this is a good exercise to incorrectly assess their value based on the way it is reported “in the media” and hopefully the papers themselves. It will keep me sharp!

So here is the first entry in this category: over at ScienceDaily, the following research paper is covered: Pain Hurts More If Person Hurting You Means It

‘Researchers at Harvard University have discovered that our experience of pain depends on whether we think someone caused the pain intentionally. In their study, participants who believed they were getting an electrical shock from another person on purpose, rather than accidentally, rated the very same shock as more painful. Participants seemed to get used to shocks that were delivered unintentionally, but those given on purpose had a fresh sting every time.’

That sounds kind of interesting, let me dig a little deeper to see what this means:

It has long been known that our own mental states can alter the experience of pain, but these findings suggest that our perceptions of the mental states of others can also influence how we feel pain.

Okay…but are these two concepts not closely related to begin with? I mean, I assume that that which we perceive can and usually does influence our mental state? So if we have already established that our mental states can influence the experience of pain, would it not be logical to assume that whatever influences our mental states will also play a role in how we experience pain?

“This study shows that even if two harmful events are physically identical, the one delivered with the intention to hurt actually hurts more,” says Gray. “Compare a slap from a friend as she tries to save us from a mosquito versus the same slap from a jilted lover. The first we shrug off instantly, while the second stings our cheek for the rest of the night.”

So I wonder if that is not explained because the latter has a far more psychological factor to it? Intentionally inflicting (physical) pain on someone goes, particularly in this case, hand in hand with intentionally inflicting mental pain on someone. There is the additional “this person is trying to hurt me! The pain is serious!” mental pressure on a person, if nothing else. A slap by a jilted lover IS meant to sting both physically and psychologically. The lover experienced psychological pain, e.g. the breaking up thing, and intentionally inflicts physical pain as a way to communicate/share that psychological pain. And psychological pain will make one remember the physical pain better. Indeed, “memory” is also a factor, I think. Intent indicates reason, reason indicates something personal. And one tends to remember the personal things longer and stronger than the accidental occurrences. Say when someone accidentally bumps into you: you are more likely to just go “Pff, whatever!”.

“Speak for your wussy self. I’d make that person pay for sure!”

Normal people would not, in general. But what if someone intentionally bumps into you? That would instantly call a “what is this person’s issue with me?!”. And that immediately puts some additional psychological stress that an unintentional, impersonal and accidental bump does not normally bring.

Conclusively, I am not sure these results are all that surprising. Of course, it is also important to remember that logical reasoning is just one small part of science. Empirically confirming your hypothesis, which is based on said logical reasoning, is the other crucial part. That is essentially what makes science science: that something can be measured and confirmed.

“Hmm, but with that kind of reasoning, it seems the whole point of assessing the significance of new research is rather moot.”

Not necessarily. For this case, it seems the significance is in the empirical aspect. Other research that I might run into later can be significance from a different perspective. But it is true that confirming something empirically that can be reasonably, or rather, logically expected is less impressive than confirming something that was unexpected. So if I have to give a “verdict”, I would have to say that this research does not score that high in the significance/originality factor for me. But maybe I am missing something here?

Anyway, this is it for the first entry! I am looking forward to doing a lot more of these!

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