The psycholinguistic and affective structure of words conveying pain




June, 2018


Borelli, E., Crepaldi, D., Porro, C.A., and Cacciari, C.

Despite the flourishing research on the relationships between affect and language, the characteristics of pain-related words, a specific type of negative words, have never been systematically investigated from a psycholinguistic and emotional perspective, despite their psychological relevance. This study offers psycholinguistic, affective, and pain-related norms for words expressing physical and social pain. This may provide a useful tool for the selection of stimulus materials in future studies on negative emotions and/or pain. We explored the relationships between psycholinguistic, affective, and pain-related properties of 512 Italian words (nouns, adjectives, and verbs) conveying physical and social pain by asking 1020 Italian participants to provide ratings of Familiarity, Age of Acquisition, Imageability, Concreteness, Context Availability, Valence, Arousal, Pain-Relatedness, Intensity, and Unpleasantness. We also collected data concerning Length, Written Frequency (Subtlex-IT), N-Size, Orthographic Levenshtein Distance 20, Neighbor Mean Frequency, and Neighbor Maximum Frequency of each word. Interestingly, the words expressing social pain were rated as more negative, arousing, pain-related, and conveying more intense and unpleasant experiences than the words conveying physical pain.