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Priming Pain Expression Intensity Influences Intent to Seek Physical Healthcare

Increasing help-seeking behavior is extremely important as healthcare avoidance is associated with poorer healthcare outcomes (e.g., progression of cancer, worsening symptoms) (Taber et al., 2015). Previous work suggests healthcare avoidance may be associated with socialized norms (McDermott et al., 2018). Indeed, endorsement of masculine norms like restrictive emotionality (RE) predicts lower intent to seek help (Himmelstein & Sanchez, 2016). In two studies the current work examines the role pain expression and social norms play in self-reported intent to seek care. In Study 1 participants (N=128) were randomly assigned to one of two pain expression conditions: exaggerated and suppressed. Participants then watched four 5-second-long videos of the same targets (two men, two women) experiencing pain. Conditions differed only in intensity of expression (i.e., exaggerated or suppressed). Afterwards, participants self-reported on a measure of trait RE. Participants subsequently self-reported their intent to seek care for common symptom arrays observed in emergency medicine (Weis et al, 2014). In Study 2 we aim to replicate Study 1. However, in Study 2, we test an alternate mediator (endorsement of RE norms), introduce a control condition, employ a larger stimulus set (20 targets), and recruit a larger sample (planned N=200). Other aspects of the design will mirror Study 1. In Study 1, participants who viewed exaggerated (compared to suppressed) pain expressions subsequently reported greater intent to seek care (p=.031, d=.48). In Study 2, we will conduct a one-way ANOVA and mediation analysis to examine similar questions to Study 1. We predict participants in the exaggerated condition will express greater intent to seek care than those in the control condition than those in the suppressed condition. Taken together, these studies further our understanding of healthcare avoidance, pain disclosure, and emotional expression norms.