Social pain is the experience of pain as a result of interpersonal rejection or loss, such as rejection from a social group, bullying, or the loss of a loved one. Research now shows that social pain results from the activation of certain components in physical pain systems. Although social, clinical, health, and developmental psychologists have each explored aspects of social pain, recent work from the neurosciences provides a coherent, unifying framework for integrative research.

This edited volume provides the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary exploration of social pain.

  • Part I examines the subject from a neuroscience perspective, outlining the evolutionary basis of social pain and tracing the genetic, neurological, and physiological underpinnings of the phenomenon.
  • Part II explores the implications of social pain for functioning in interpersonal relationships; contributions examine the influence of painkillers on social emotions, the ability to relive past social hurts, and the relation of social pain to experiences of intimacy.
  • Part III examines social pain from a biopsychosocial perspective in its consideration of the health implications of social pain, outlining the role of stress in social pain and the potential long-term health consequences of bullying.

The book concludes with an integrative review of these diverse perspectives.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Experiencing the Ache of Social Injuries—An Integrative Approach to Understanding Social Pain
—Lauri A. Jensen-Campbell and Geoff MacDonald

I. Neurological and Physiological Bases of Social Pain

  1. The Neurobiology of Social Loss in Animals: Some Keys to the Puzzle of Psychic Pain in Humans
    —Jaak Panksepp
  2. The Neural Basis of Social Pain: Findings and Implications
    —Naomi I. Eisenberger
  3. Physiological Responses to Experiences of Social Pain
    —Sally S. Dickerson
  4. Genetic Factors in Social Pain
    —Baldwin M. Way and Shelley E. Taylor

II. Social Pain in Interpersonal Relationships

  1. Acetaminophen Dulls Psychological Pain
    —C. Nathan DeWall, Richard S. Pond Jr., and Timothy Deckman
  2. Defensive Avoidance of Social Pain via Perceptions of Social Threat and Reward
    —Geoff MacDonald, Terry K. Borsook, and Stephanie S. Spielmann
  3. Social Pain Is Easily Relived and Prelived, but Physical Pain Is Not
    —Zhansheng Chen and Kipling D. Williams

III. Health Consequences of Social Pain

  1. The Biopsychosocial Perspective of Pain and Emotion
    —Robert J. Gatchel and Nancy D. Kishino
  2. Social Stressors, Social Pain, and Health
    —Andrew Baum, Carroll Michelle Lee, and Angela Liegey Dougall
  3. Bullying and Its Long-Term Health Implications
    —Jennifer M. Knack, Haylie L. Gomez, and Lauri A. Jensen-Campbell

Conclusion: Social Pain Research—Accomplishments and Challenges
—Geoff MacDonald and Lauri A. Jensen-Campbell


About the Editors

Editor Bios

Geoff MacDonald, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto. He received his PhD in social psychology at the University of Waterloo and won Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funding to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at Wake Forest University.

Prior to joining the University of Toronto, Dr. MacDonald held the position of senior lecturer at the University of Queensland School of Psychology.

In addition to his work on social pain, he has examined diverse topics including social threats and rewards, romantic relationships, self-esteem, culture, social influence, and alcohol.

Lauri A. Jensen-Campbell, PhD, is a core a faculty member in the doctoral programs in experimental and health psychology at the University of Texas (UT) at Arlington. She is also a distinguished teaching professor, with courses on developmental psychology and research design and statistics.

She received her PhD in psychology from Texas A&M University in 1995. Before coming to UT Arlington, she was an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University in Davie, Florida.

Her research is located at the intersection of personality, social, developmental, and health psychology. She is currently interested in how bullying influences health outcomes across the life span. In addition, she is interested in how individual differences in personality and genetic polymorphisms buffer or exacerbate these associations between poor peer relationships and health outcomes.

Since coming to UT Arlington, Dr. Jensen-Campbell has received funding from the National Science Foundation, Timberlawn Psychiatric Research Foundation, and the Anthony Marchionne Research Foundation.

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