Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Amelia M. Lee


This study described the effect of relaxation and laughter on the perceived intensity and affect of pain induced by a cold water pressor test. Equal numbers of female athletic and non-athletic subjects (N = 36) were selected from varsity athletes and undergraduates at Louisiana State University. All subjects were pre-tested on their tolerance to a cold water pressor test. Responses on visual analogue scales for perceived pain intensity (I) and affect (A), and submersion time were recorded. The volunteer subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: relaxation-inducing, laughter-inducing, or control. Following a 20 minute exposure to the audio treatment tapes (laughter or relaxation), the subjects were measured again on their perceived tolerance to pain and submersion time. Subject's confidence in their level of tolerance were measured pre and post-treatment, and the expectancy of the efficacy of the treatment to increase tolerance was also recorded post-treatment. Perceived pain (I and A), anxiety (STAI), confidence (CV and CS), relaxation (RE), and expectancy (EXPECT), were recorded pretest and posttest. Heart rate was monitored continuously using a pulse rate monitor with a photoelectric finger sensor. A multivariate mixed model (MMM) repeated measures analysis was selected for the study. Correlational analyses were used to examine relationships between variables. Non-athletes were found to have lower perceived pain tolerance than athletes at pretest and posttest. Humor and relaxation treatments when combined significantly reduced both the perceived intensity (I) and affect (A) of pain. Follow-up ANOVAs revealed a significant time effect for anxiety (STAI), confidence (CS and CV), relaxation (RE), and heart rate (C and CH), across groups and treatments. Athletes were superior to non-athletes on perceived pain (I and A), submersion time, and confidence (CV and CS). Further research is still needed on the relationship between humor and pain tolerance.