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Pain: Behavioural expression and response in an evolutionary framework.

An evolutionary perspective offers insights into the major public health problem of chronic (persistent) pain; behaviours associated with it perpetuate both pain and disability. Pain is motivating, and pain-related behaviours promote recovery by immediate active or passive defence; subsequent protection of wounds; suppression of competing responses; energy conservation; vigilance to threat; and learned avoidance of associated cues. When these persist beyond healing, as in chronic pain, they are disabling. In mammals, facial and bodily expression of pain is visible and identifiable by others, while social context, including conspecifics' responses, modulate pain. Studies of responses to pain emphasize onlooker empathy, but people with chronic pain report feeling disbelieved and stigmatized. Observers frequently discount others' pain, best understood in terms of cheater detection-alertness to free riders that underpins the capacity for prosocial behaviours. These dynamics occur both in everyday life and in clinical encounters, providing an account of the adaptiveness of pain-related behaviours.

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