Psychological Science2014-10-31 9:48 AM

In Pain Thou Shalt Bring Forth Children: The Peak-and-End Rule in Recall of Labor Pain

Abstract

Childbirth is usually the most painful event of a mother’s life, and resonates in individual and collective memory for years. The current study examined the relationship between the experience of labor pain and its recollection 2 days and 2 months after delivery. We found that despite the exceptional physical and emotional experiences of childbirth, the memory of the pain involved in labor was biased toward the average of the peak pain and the end pain, whereas the duration of the delivery had a relatively negligible effect on the recollected intensity of pain. A comparison of mothers whose labor ended with or without epidural analgesia corroborated previous findings that the level of pain toward the end of an experience greatly influences the way the overall experience is remembered. Although both short- and long-term retention of memories of labor exhibited the peak-and-end effect, having given birth before weakened the effect 2 months after delivery.


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Psychological Science

Psychological Science, the flagship journal of the Association for Psychological Science, is the leading peer-reviewed journal publishing empirical research spanning the entire spectrum of the science of psychology.

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